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Alabama lawmakers pass bills to protect IVF providers from lawsuits and prosecution

In the wake of a court decision that ruled frozen embryos should be considered people, Alabama lawmakers voted on Wednesday to pass a finalised Republican-proposed bill that would protect IVF providers from prosecution.

Last month’s unprecedented ruling came after three couples – whose frozen embryos were accidentally destroyed at a fertility clinic – brought wrongful death lawsuits against the facility.

The Alabama Supreme Court ruled last month that the lawsuits for the death of the “extrauterine children” could proceed, saying wrongful death law “applies to all unborn children, regardless of their location” – meaning, even if they are “located outside of a biological uterus at the time they are killed”.

The unprecedented ruling raised alarm bells for in vitro fertilisation centres, who feared they could be held criminally liable for damage to frozen embryos, and Alabama’s three largest IVF providers paused treatments.

On Tuesday, committees in the Alabama House and Senate approved bills that would shield IVF providers from these sorts of lawsuits.

“The problem we are trying to solve right now is to get those families back on track to be moving forward as they try to have children,” ​​Rep Terri Collins, who sponsored one of the bills, told the Associated Press.

The state legislature approved the bills on Wednesday, after which governor Kay Ivey will sign it into law. The governor had indicated last week that she would sign the bill into law as soon as it reaches her desk.

“We anticipate the IVF protection legislation to receive its final passage very soon and look forward to the governor signing it into law,” Ms Ivey’s spokesperson Gina Maiola was quoted as saying by NBC News on Wednesday afternoon.

The court ruling, and the IVF centres’ decision to halt treatments in its aftermath, left many hopeful Alabama parents uncertain they’d be able to have children.

One woman, Gabrielle Goidel, told CNN she has spent more than $20,000 on IVF after having three miscarriages. The court ruling came days before she was scheduled for egg retrieval, leaving the future of her IVF journey in question.

“It was absolutely my worst fear,” Ms Goidel said. “I don’t think I’ve ever been this stressed in my life, this worried.”

Now, she and her husband are planning to fly to Texas to continue treatments.

“I just feel like I don’t even want to ever come back to Alabama,” she said.