After Alabama

Making IVF available won’t stop criminalization

MAR 1, 2024
Lynn M. Paltrow

Shock and outrage have met the recent Alabama Supreme Court IVF decision that frozen embryos are children who “cannot be wrongfully destroyed without incurring the wrath of a holy God.” This decision, based on Christian theology, has put all in-vitro fertilization procedures in the state at risk. It should not, however, have come as a surprise given the many Alabama laws and earlier decisions holding that fertilized eggs, embryos, and fetuses are separate legal persons.

New legislation to ensure that Alabama families have access to this expensive fertility treatment will do nothing to address the other punitive and dehumanizing ways Alabama’s legal personification of the unborn is used to arrest hundreds of mostly poor, rural women. Nor will it do anything to stop the likely, if not inevitable, use of Alabama’s criminal laws to lock up anyone who has an abortion.


Alabama is using the notion that embryos are people to surveil and harass women

Even before the court ruled in favor of this vulgar fiction, state authorities relied on the concept to intimidate and jail women

Moira Donegan
Mon 26 Feb 2024

Something that’s important to remember about last week’s ruling by the Alabama supreme court, which held that frozen embryos were persons under state law, is that the very absurdity of the claim is itself a demonstration of power. That a frozen embryo – a microscopic bit of biological information that can’t even be called tissue, a flick laden with the hopes of aspiring parents but fulfilling none of them – is equivalent in any way to a child is the sort of thing you can only say if no one has the power to laugh at you. The Alabama supreme court is the final court of review in that state. It cannot be appealed. For the foreseeable future, frozen cells in Alabama have the same legal status there as you or I do. Is this an absurd elevation of the status of an embryo, or an obscene degradation of human beings? The answer, of course, is both.


Why Alabama’s ruling that embryos are children could fuel anti-abortion movement in Canada

Decision also 'chilling' for people seeking IVF, says Canada Research Chair

Natalie Stechyson · CBC News
Feb 22, 2024

A decision by the Alabama Supreme Court that frozen embryos can be considered children under state law has some reproductive rights advocates and fertility law experts in Canada concerned about a potential ripple effect.

The worry isn't necessarily that a decision like the one in Alabama, that was issued in wrongful death cases brought by couples who had frozen embryos destroyed in an accident, could happen here, experts say.


USA – The Anti-Abortion Movement Is Coming for Fertility Treatments

An Alabama court may have just ended IVF in the state—opening up the whole IVF process to politically-motivated legal scrutiny and penalty.


The availability of in-vitro fertilization in Alabama may now be in question after the state’s Supreme Court ruled that embryos kept in clinic freezers are considered persons under the law, and protected by the state’s Wrongful Death of a Minor Act. It’s a shocking and jarring decision that radically extends the bounds of legal personhood, tosses any claims to originalism aside, and seems primed to make a variety of fertility treatments either extremely costly for patients, or extremely legally risky for clinicians.

If you want a sense of just how overtly theocratic the opposition to abortion and IVF are, I invite you to read the dissent in the Alabama decision, which was penned by the court’s chief justice and is a really really long argument that can be basically summed up as: “God said so.” So that’s who’s leading the court in Alabama.


Frozen embryos are “children,” according to Alabama’s Supreme Court

IVF often produces more embryos than are needed or used.


The Alabama Supreme Court on Friday ruled that frozen embryos are "children," entitled to full personhood rights, and anyone who destroys them could be liable in a wrongful death case.

…"Human life cannot be wrongfully destroyed without incurring the wrath of a holy God, who views the destruction of His image as an affront to Himself," Chief Justice Tom Parker wrote. "Even before birth, all human beings bear the image of God, and their lives cannot be destroyed without effacing his glory."


An Alabama woman was imprisoned for ‘endangering’ her fetus. She gave birth in a jail shower

Exclusive: Ashley Caswell, one of a growing number of jailed pregnant women in Etowah county, is suing officials after she was denied care

Sam Levin in Los Angeles
Fri 13 Oct 2023

In March 2021, sheriffs in Etowah county, Alabama, arrested Ashley Caswell on accusations that she’d tested positive for methamphetamine while pregnant and was “endangering” her fetus.

Caswell, who was two months pregnant at the time, became one of a growing number of women imprisoned in the county in the name of protecting their “unborn children”.


Republicans Want to Control Your Pregnancy, Not Just Your Abortion

Nearly 1,400 prosecutions of pregnant people occurred in the 16 years leading up to Dobbs in 2022, a new Pregnancy Justice report finds.

by TALLULAH COSTA, Ms. Magazine

The war on reproductive justice wages on, and the right to a safe and healthy pregnancy hangs in the balance—according to a new report “The Rise of Pregnancy Criminalization,” by Pregnancy Justice, an organization dedicated to defending “the civil and human rights of pregnant people,” and guided by a reproductive justice framework. Analyzing data from 2006 to 2022, the report offers the first and only comprehensive study of the criminalization of people for their actions while pregnant during the Roe era.

The report shows an alarming rise in pregnancy criminalization, increasing three-fold over the past 16 years. The states where fetuses are recognized as people under criminal law, as decided by state supreme courts, are also the states with the most striking data for prosecutions of pregnancy. Just five Southern states are largely responsible for this increase in arrests: Alabama, South Carolina, Tennessee, Oklahoma and Mississippi.


These States Are Using Fetal Personhood to Put Women Behind Bars

Hundreds of women who used drugs while pregnant have faced criminal charges — even when they deliver healthy babies.

By CARY ASPINWALL, The Marshall Project
July 25, 2023

When Quitney Armstead learned she was pregnant while locked up in a rural Alabama jail, she made a promise — to God and herself — to stay clean.

She had struggled with addiction and post-traumatic stress disorder for nearly a decade, since serving in the Iraq War. But when she found out she was pregnant with her third child, in October 2018, she resolved: “I want to be a mama to my kids again.”


This Alabama Health Clinic Is Under Threat. It Doesn’t Provide Abortions.

Former abortion clinics in red states are trying to pivot to other services after Dobbs. But they’re finding it’s not so easy.


TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — Patients arriving for an appointment at the West Alabama Women’s Center one year ago would brave a gauntlet of chanting protesters, skirt an idling police car, take seats in a crowded waiting room and wait for one of the clinic’s dozen busy staff members to help them terminate a pregnancy. Over the clinic’s nearly 30-year history, visits also included the risk of being shot, bombed or rammed by a vehicle.

But when Abigail arrived on a Tuesday morning in April, nearly 11 months after the fall of Roe v. Wade, the parking lot was so quiet you could hear the clinic’s windchime tinkling faintly in the hot breeze.


USA – Abortion access advocacy groups slam bill allowing women to be charged with homicide

The bill goes against Alabama’s 2019 law, which expressly states that women who obtain abortions are not to be prosecuted.

May 15, 2023

When Alabama passed legislation in 2019 to criminalize abortions in the state, Republicans were clear: the women receiving abortions were not to be criminalized.

But just a year after Roe v. Wade was reversed, Rep. Ernie Yarbrough, R-Trinity, has introduced a bill, HB454, doing just that, eliminating a section in the homicide code preventing prosecutors from charging women for homicide for having an abortion.