Florida delays ‘fetal personhood’ bill after fallout from Alabama IVF ruling

<span>Erin Grall, the state senator who sponsored the now-delayed ‘fetal personhood’ bill in 2022.</span><span>Photograph: Phil Sears/AP</span>
Erin Grall, the state senator who sponsored the now-delayed ‘fetal personhood’ bill in 2022.Photograph: Phil Sears/AP

Florida lawmakers have postponed a bill that would give fetuses civil rights after a similar ruling in Alabama has halted in vitro fertilization treatment at several clinics in the state.

The “fetal personhood” bill had been gaining support amid Florida’s mostly Republican lawmakers. The legislation attempts to define a fetus as an “unborn child”, allowing parents to collect financial damages in the case of wrongful death, the Tampa Bay Times reported.

Related: ‘My embryos aren’t safe here’: US patients struggling with infertility scramble after Alabama IVF ruling

But the bill has largely stalled after Democrats argued that the legislation could affect in vitro fertilization (IVF) treatments, as seen in Alabama after the state’s supreme court ruled earlier this month that embryos created through IVF are considered “extrauterine children”. Since the ruling, several Alabama IVF clinics have paused services.

The Florida state representative Dotie Joseph, a Democrat, told the Washington Post that the bill’s language did not protect IVF treatment from being affected.

“We are exposing the healthcare provider to liability if something goes wrong,” Joseph said. “You have a situation where you are creating a chilling effect for people who are proactively trying to have a baby.”

Florida Democrats have also warned that the new law could further affect abortion access, as fetuses gain additional civil rights rights under law.

The Republican state senator Erin Grall, who sponsored the bill, said in a statement that she requested the legislation be postponed amid concerns.

“Although I have worked diligently to respond to questions and concerns, I understand there is still work that needs to be done,” Grall said, the Bay Times reported. “It is important we get the policy right with an issue of this significance.”

Other co-sponsors of the bill, such as the Republican state representative Jenna Persons-Mulicka, have reiterated that the bill is about the “value of the life of an unborn child”, the Post reported.

It is unlikely that the bill will be passed in the current legislative session, which ends on 8 March, the Post reported.

Following the Alabama ruling, other states have weighed similar bills that would grant fetuses rights, NBC News reported.

At least 14 states legislatures have introduced similar “fetal personhood” bills, NBC reported, citing data from the Center for Reproductive Rights and the Guttmacher Institute. The surge is the largest increase of such bills since the overturning of Roe v Wade in 2022.