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Senate approves amended version of Melson’s IVF bill

The bill passed with unanimous support on a 34-0 vote.

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On Thursday, the Senate approved a bill that would ensure criminal and civil immunity for those administering or receiving in vitro fertilization services. 

The bill, SB159, was sponsored by Sen. Tim Melson, R-Florence, and passed with unanimous support on a 34-0 vote. The engrossed version of the legislation that passed the Senate had key differences compared to the bill’s original reading. 

Originally the bill gave criminal and civil liability protection to entities or individuals administering IVF services only and if passed, the legislation would expire on April 1, 2025.

While the bill was on the Senate floor, an amendment from Sen. Linda Coleman-Madison and a substitute from Melson were adopted. These changes removed the sunset effect in 2025 and added immunity for both administrators and those receiving IVF services if an embryo were damaged or died.

“Relating to in vitro fertilization; to provide civil and criminal immunity for death or damage to an embryo to any individual or entity when providing or receiving goods or services related to in vitro fertilization; and to provide retroactive effect,” the bill reads.

A companion bill in the House also passed Thursday as Republican legislators are scrambling to get IVF clinics and services open again. Following a ruling by the Alabama Supreme Court that decided frozen embryos were children, many IVF clinics have halted their services.

While the bill passed unanimously several Democratic lawmakers warned that the primary issue of embryos being interpreted as children now was being avoided. 

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Coleman-Madison effectively stated that Republican legislators were now dealing with the unintended consequences of prior laws they passed.  Coleman-Madison asked what was the purpose of the bill if it was not going to solve the problem.

“If we’re not fixing the problem that we created, what are we doing,” Coleman-Madison asked.

Melson said he was attempting to give women the ability to access the IVF services and, “I’m worried about getting these fertility clinics open.”

Senate Minority Leader Bobby Singleton, D-Greensboro, continued to press how the efforts by Melson and other Republicans to protect IVF services were the result of unintended consequences of prior policies they passed and supported.

“The Republicans over on the other side messed this up in 2019,” Singleton stated. “Gave the state of Alabama the reason to rule the way they are today…this is just a testament guys and girls to when you do those things that have unintended consequences.”

In 2019, Gov. Kay Ivey signed into law the Human Life Protection Act which makes performing an abortion a felony punishable up to 99 years in prison. In 2018, a constitutional amendment passed to “recognize and support the sanctity of unborn life and the rights of unborn children, including the right to life.”

The legislation will move to the House where it will likely be expedited through committee to the House floor.

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

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