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Mobile clinic to end IVF program amid litigation over frozen embryos

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Mobile clinic to end IVF program amid litigation over frozen embryos

Apr 03, 2024 | 3:32 pm ET
By Alander Rocha
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Mobile clinic to end IVF program amid litigation over frozen embryos
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Sarah Brown, a Birmingham resident and in vitro fertilization patient, holds a sign saying "I'm Here Because of IVF" at the Alabama Statehouse on Feb. 28, 2024 in Montgomery, Alabama. Supporters of bills aiming to protect IVF access held a rally Wednesday ahead of committee hearings on the legislation. (Brian Lyman/Alabama Reflector)

A Mobile health care system that provides in vitro fertilization (IVF) care will stop the services at the end of the year, citing lawsuits over the fertility treatment. 

Infirmary Health, one of several entities sued over the accidental destruction of frozen embryos at the clinic in 2020, faced additional litigation after a February Alabama Supreme Court ruling that declared frozen embryos were children.  

“In order to assist families in Alabama and along the Gulf Coast who have initiated the process of IVF therapy in the hopes of starting a family, Mobile Infirmary has temporarily resumed IVF treatments at the hospital. However, in light of litigation concerns surrounding IVF therapy, Mobile Infirmary will no longer be able to offer this service to families after December 31, 2024,” a statement from the clinic said.

The statement does not apply to the Center for Reproductive Medicine, the other defendant named in the lawsuit, which is a separate entity and not affiliated with Infirmary Health, according to Infirmary Health spokesperson Hannah Peterson.

The Center for Reproductive Health said Wednesday evening that it was not closing at the end of the year and that it has resumed “full operations following recent legislation passed,” but that it will move to new facilities in Mobile and Dothan.

“This move reflects CRM’s dedication to expanding accessibility to its cutting-edge scientific advancements, medical expertise, and compassionate care,” according to the Center for Reproductive Health.

The Alabama Supreme Court’s ruling allowed parents of frozen embryos to claim civil damages for their loss under an 1872 law allowing parents to claim civil damages for the deaths of their children.  At least one other lawsuit has been filed against the organization since the Alabama Supreme Court’s ruling.

The court’s ruling also cited a 2018 constitutional amendment that says “it is the public policy of this state to recognize and support the sanctity of unborn life and the rights of unborn children, including the right to life.”

Alabama passed a new IVF law. But questions remain.

The Alabama Legislature passed a bill that extended criminal and civil immunity to IVF clinics for operations, but the legislation does not address when life begins. Democrats argued that the court’s reliance on the 2018 constitutional amendment implies that the issue can only be resolved through another constitutional amendment. Republicans, who control both chamber of the Legislature, have shied away from addressing that issue.

After the bill went into effect, at least two other clinics providing IVF resumed services. Mobile Infirmary said they weren’t reopening until they had clarification about the immunity the state provided.

“At this time, we believe the law falls short of addressing the fertilized eggs currently stored across the state and leaves challenges for physicians and fertility clinics trying to help deserving families have children of their own,” the clinic said in a statement in early March.

Barbara Collura, president and CEO of RESOLVE: The National Infertility Association, said in a statement after Gov. Kay Ivey signed the legislation into law that while they were relieved that clinics in Alabama can restart IVF treatment, “this legislation does not address the underlying issue of the status of embryos as part of the IVF process.”

This story was updated at 5:30 p.m. to include comments from the Center for Reproductive Health.