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Bills to protect IVF facilities advance as advocates flood State House

Republicans have been rushing since last Thursday to prepare legislation to address the issue.

Sen. Tim Melson, R-Florence, and Rep. Terri Collins, R-Decatur, speak with advocates for IVF treatment outside the Alabama Statehouse on Wednesday, Feb. 28, 2024. (Jacob Holmes/APR)
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Corrin O’Brien is seven weeks pregnant with her second child, the result of the in vitro fertilization process she and her family have been pursuing for the past three years.

The successful implantation came just in time, as IVF clinics across the state have paused operations after the Alabama Supreme Court ruled two weeks ago that embryos created in the IVF process are protected under Alabama’s constitutional amendment protecting unborn life.

“For us, this is deeply personal,” said O’Brien, organizer of the “Fight for Alabama Families Advocacy Day” that brought hundreds to the State House Wednesday to talk with lawmakers about their response to the ruling.

“After losing my mother to pancreatic cancer as an only child, my husband and I have been trying to expand our family for the last three years,” O’Brien said. “We want our daughter Louise to have a sibling to navigate life with long after we are gone … If this ruling had happened a month ago, I wouldn’t be pregnant. I would be right there with the thousands of families stuck in limbo. My heart breaks for everyone in this state who had to stop their IVF treatment of for those who were ready and have have had to put on pause.”

Three bills addressing the situation passed in committee just hours later, two in the Senate by Sen. Larry Stutts, R-, and Sen. Tim Melson, R-Florence; and one in the House by Rep. Terri Collins, R-Decatur, that mirrored Melson’s original bill.

Republicans have been rushing since last Thursday to prepare legislation to address the issue, stating it was not the Legislature’s intent when it passed anti-abortion legislation in 2018 to apply to IVF treatment. Both of Alabama’s U.S. Senators, Katie Britt and Tommy Tuberville, have called for protections for IVF treatments, as have Gov. Kay Ivey and ranking members of the Legislature. Attorney General Steve Marshall also said he would not pursue criminal charges relating to IVF treatment.

Advocates for IVF treatment outside the Alabama State House on Wednesday, Feb. 28, 2024.

Despite the overwhelming response from Republican leadership, there are some who are cautioning the state against passing the legislation.

The Alabama Policy Institute and Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America released a joint statement ahead of the committee meetings Wednesday to call for lawmakers to “balance IVF with respect for life.”

“It is unacceptable the Alabama Legislature has advanced a bill that falls short of pro-life expectations and fails to respect the dignity of human life,” the groups said in the statement. “Alabama can do both: allow the continued practice of IVF with care for those suffering from infertility and respect life created through the IVF. We have full confidence that the same Legislature that passed a law protecting the unborn throughout pregnancy will also take the crucial step to continue protecting all human life, in keeping with the people of Alabama who are ardently pro-life.”

Melson and Collins addressed the crowd of families outside the statehouse Wednesday morning, with Melson telling them he would rework the legislation to make sure it protects patients as well as facilities.

“We have a fix, we believe, but in our haste to make sure that we covered the industry the doctors, the suppliers and things like that kind of have omitted the most important person in the process, and that’s the patient,” Melson said. “This isn’t about politics, this is about patients.”

Advocates for IVF treatment outside the Alabama State House on Wednesday, Feb. 28, 2024.

Both Melson’s and Collins’ bills create immunity for IVF providers, but Melson brought a substitute in committee that fulfilled his promise to expand the protection to the patients by adding immunity for individuals involved in the process. Collins’ bill has not yet been substituted to match that language.

Melson’s bill also originally set the bill to apply retroactively, and to sunset in 2025, both provisions that he removed when introducing the substitute. Melson explained that lawsuits that have already begun cannot Constitutionally be stopped, and said sunsetting the bill in 2025 would not allow patients to pursue the process with confidence because of how lengthy the process can be.

Democrats have filed their own bills, including a House bill that would give voters the opportunity to amend the constitution to clarify that IVF embryos are not to be considered human life.

None of the Democrat IVF bills were introduced in committees on Wednesday. The bill is expected to go to the Senate floor today.

Jacob Holmes is a reporter at the Alabama Political Reporter. You can reach him at [email protected]

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