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Alabama hospital to stop IVF services at end of the year due to "litigation concerns"

Bipartisan coalition forming to protect IVF
Bipartisan coalition forming to federally protect IVF 04:12

An Alabama hospital says it is stopping IVF treatments at the end of 2024, citing litigation concerns. It follows a tumultuous few months in which the state's supreme court ruled that frozen embryos created through in vitro fertilization, or IVF, are considered children, and then a new state law was passed to offer more legal protection for IVF.

"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," says a statement shared Wednesday on the hospital's website.

The Mobile Infirmary Medical Center was the focus of two lawsuits from couples whose frozen embryos were dropped and destroyed in 2020. The court's decision to equate frozen embryos to children allowed the couples to sue for wrongful death of a minor. Experts at the time warned the first-of-its-kind decision could have broader implications as well.

The court ruling in February prompted the state's three major IVF providers to pause services and caused outcry from families, fertility experts and organizations who said Alabama's ruling could lead to a decrease in IVF access and care.

In March, Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey signed a bill into law shielding IVF providers from potential legal liability raised by the court's prior ruling.

The bill, approved by the Republican-controlled state House and Senate, protects providers from criminal prosecution and limits lawsuits for the "damage or death of an embryo" during IVF services. 

Following Ivey's signing of the bill, the University of Alabama at Birmingham, which had paused IVF treatments after the court's ruling, said it "appreciates the Alabama Legislature and Governor Kay Ivey for swiftly passing and signing legislation that provides some protections and will therefore allow UAB to restart in vitro fertilization (IVF) treatments. While UAB is moving to promptly resume IVF treatments, we will continue to assess developments and advocate for protections for IVF patients and providers."

Still, some say the law doesn't do enough to protect doctors and clinics.

Sean Tipton, a spokesperson for The American Society for Reproductive Medicine, a group representing IVF providers across the country, said that the legislation does not correct the fundamental problem, which he said is the court ruling "conflating fertilized eggs with children."

About 1 in 5 people are unable to get pregnant after one year of trying, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. A recent survey found 42% of American adults say they have used, or know someone who has used, fertility treatments.

-Melissa Quinn and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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