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Ivey signs bill shielding IVF clinics from liability

“What we’re trying to do right now is just play lawsuit whack-a-mole,” Rep. Chris England said. 

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Clinics providing in vitro fertilization are now immune from criminal and civil liability under Alabama state law for the death or destruction of an embryo.

The Alabama House of Representatives passed the Senate version of the bill Wednesday just five legislative days after the legislation was introduced, the fastest possible passage of a bill based on procedural rules.

“The overwhelming support of SB159 from the Alabama Legislature proves what we have been saying: Alabama works to foster a culture of life, and that certainly includes IVF,” Ivey said in a statement after signing the bill Wednesday. “I am pleased to sign this important, short-term measure into law so that couples in Alabama hoping and praying to be parents can grow their families through IVF. IVF is a complex issue, no doubt, and I anticipate there will be more work to come, but right now, I am confident that this legislation will provide the assurances our IVF clinics need and will lead them to resume services immediately.”

State Rep. Terri Collins, R-Decatur, reassured lawmakers as she carried the bill in the House that this is only a short-term solution to reopen IVF clinics while a more permanent solution is pursued.

Although the hill passed overwhelmingly with bipartisan support, it also had bipartisan opposition—and more of it than the bill’s first run through the House.

Last week on the House floor, a nearly identical bill passed with only six nays and three abstentions. Twice as many lawmakers voted against the bill Wednesday, and abstentions tripled.

Rep. Chris England, D-Tuscaloosa, said the bill is simply “a bad piece of legislation.”

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“What we’re trying to do right now is just play lawsuit whack-a-mole,” England said. 

England and other lawmakers also questioned how the immunity aligns with the state’s position that life begins at conception.

“Essentially if you are rich and have the resources, you can do things at an IVF clinic that poor people can’t do in an abortion clinic,” England said.

Only two Republican lawmakers voted against the bill—the same two opposed last week—as 17 Democrats either opposed or abstained from voting.

While Alabama Republicans overwhelmingly supported the bill to reopen IVF clinics, there are some in the party unhappy with the Legislature’s actions and agree with the Alabama Supreme Court ruling that kickstarted the whirlwind legislative solution.

State Rep. Ernie Yarbrough, R-Trinity, said last week that the ALSC may have “uncovered a silent holocaust” and urged colleagues to vote against the bill.

Ivey noted in her statement that she expects some backlash over the bill.

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“Make no mistake about it, though, in the coming days, weeks and months, particularly as we are in the heat of a national election, we will hear a lot of political rhetoric around IVF,” Ivey said. “Let me say clearly: Alabama supports growing families through IVF. From protecting the unborn to supporting IVF, Alabama is proud we are a pro-life, pro-family state.”

Despite increased opposition to the bill in the voting tally, the bill was passed in the House with comparatively little debate, taking just an hour to pass on the floor. Debate continued for three hours last week before lawmakers voted to cloture the conversation.

With the law signed, lawmakers expect IVF clinics could resume operations immediately.

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

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