". . . and having done all . . . stand firm." Eph. 6:13


Alabama Supreme Court Sparks Controversy after Ruling Embryos Are Human Beings

February 27, 2024

Dr. Albert Mohler, president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, said on “The Briefing” last week that “the Alabama State Supreme Court handed down a history-making decision,” namely, “that human embryos are covered by Alabama law, and even by the Alabama Constitution, as children, regardless of where an embryo may be found.”

The ruling, involving in vitro fertilization (IVF), was 8-1 and based in Alabama’s Wrongful Death of a Minor Act, an 1872 state law that allows parents to sue if their child is killed. The case was brought by three couples in Alabama who sued the Center for Reproductive Medicine in Mobile after five frozen embryos that belonged to the couples were dropped and destroyed after an unauthorized person entered a storage facility, raising questions about the unregulated IVF industry.

Even though the justices were careful to limit the ruling to the destruction of embryonic human beings, many on the Left are couching the ruling as a referendum on IVF. The Washington Post’s Alexandra Petri said the court’s decision is “laughably cruel” to consider a “cluster of hopeful cells” a human being. “You would be laughing, if you could stop crying,” Petri wrote. But despite the immediate backlash from the Left, Justice Jay Mitchell wrote that the majority decision was a reflection of Alabama’s state constitutional amendment that is “directly aimed at stopping courts from excluding ‘unborn life’ from legal protection.”

Mary Szoch, director of the Center for Human Dignity at Family Research Council, agreed on Friday’s episode of “Washington Watch” that this decision is “huge” but countered that narrative. “What the Alabama Supreme Court said was that the location of where a person is doesn’t determine whether or not that human being is a person,” she explained. “… And it doesn’t matter where that unborn child is, that child is always worthy of protection.” Jody Hice, former congressman and senior vice president at FRC, added, “This is about the rule of law and the sanctity of life.”

IVF has been used by tens of thousands of couples seeking help with infertility. But, as Mohler pointed out on Monday, “[T]he issue of IVF is quite complicated” — especially since IVF is supposed to be for people who want to start a family but are hindered from getting pregnant.

According to The Daily Mail in 2012, “1.7 million embryos created for IVF have been thrown away, and just 7% lead to pregnancy.” As Mohler emphasized, these are millions of babies “destined for destruction,” adding that “many of them are being now routinely destroyed.” The consequences of IVF, he said, leads to a conversation “many evangelical Christians do not want to” have, but he urged that it’s a vital topic to address because “IVF technology requires the moral alienation of goods that God intended to come together and to be held together.”

Szoch told The Washington Stand that “the IVF industry preys upon the deep desire for motherhood and fatherhood that many couples unable to conceive feel. The process is incredibly physically challenging for women and risks include ectopic pregnancy, miscarriage, pregnancy-induced hypertension, multiple pregnancy, and preterm labor.” But she added that “the emotional toll on the mother and father cannot be discounted.”

Szoch pointed out that each cycle of IVF “offers the hope of one day holding a baby,” but that often turns into devastation when faced with the reality that “93% of the embryos created through IVF never result in a live birth.” Not to mention that the “embryos are screened for genetic abnormalities,” she said, and often embryos “found to be less than ‘perfect’ are simply discarded.”

As Szoch laid out, there are many dangers and possible abuses to IVF, and the industry itself “fails to recognize that each of these embryos is a person deserving of protection.” Katy Faust, founder of Them Before Us, posted on X, “No matter how challenging our personal circumstances, the solution must never be to strip children of their fundamental rights and needs.”

Even so, the pushback persists.

Taking advantage of the confusion over whether the Alabama ruling prohibits IVF, on Wednesday, Senator Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.) will ask that S.3612, the so-called Access to Family Building Act, be considered for passage under unanimous consent. (If no senator objects, the bill would pass without a vote.) The bill would ostensibly “establish a federal right to access IVF and other assisted reproductive technology services nationwide,” The Washington Post reported.

But Quena Gonzalez, FRC’s senior director of Government Affairs, told TWS that a bill making IVF a “federal right” is too vague and could pose threats to other rights. He also noted that it has an over-broad definition of artificial reproductive technology (ART) and includes a sweeping list of rights for those who create, traffic, and experiment on embryonic unborn children. “Far from showing compassion,” he said, “S.3612 would codify a near-absolute right to create children in the lab, ignoring the rights of those children and the responsibilities of both parents and the baby-making industry. It would prevent states from effectively regulating the industry, if doing so would add to the cost of IVF. And it would further separate parents from their filial duty to their unborn offspring.”

The bill goes much further than protecting IVF. It is being criticized for legalizing human cloning, gene-editing to produce “designer babies,” the creation of animal-human hybrids (“chimeras”), surrogacy, and the trafficking and destruction of human embryos. Many of these are prohibited in some state laws, but there is no federal ban and this bill would create a proactive right.

It’s also a threat to religious liberty, Gonzalez said, because “even if the pro-life and pro-family concerns could be cured, the bill, by exempting itself from the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), could be used by the IVF industry to force people and institutions — including religious organizations, small family businesses, and even pro-life organizations — to participate in providing, paying for, insuring, and underwriting artificial reproductive technology to which they object, either on religious or simply moral grounds.”

He pointed out that the pro-life objections of Hobby Lobby, for example, which were upheld by the Supreme Court in the 2014 Burwell v. Hobby Lobby case challenging Obamacare’s abortifacient mandate, succeeded in large part because it was based on RFRA, a federal statute that Senator Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) sponsored in 1992. “Exempting this bill from RFRA,” Gonzalez said, “is perhaps the clearest indication that the bill’s authors know that it implicates American’s pro-life conscience, and therefore our religious liberty.”

What are Christians to make of this? “Christians honor the God-given desire of parents for children,” Gonzalez emphasized. “After all, children are a blessing from the Lord! And we mourn with those couples who cannot conceive because we know that it is God who blesses the childless with children. From Genesis to Revelation, Scripture teaches us by word and by example that children are a blessing from God, and that those who desire children but cannot conceive or give birth to them are to be comforted by God and God’s people.”

“But nothing in the Alabama ruling makes IVF illegal,” he added, “and pro-life voters and policymakers should not allow themselves to be rushed into enshrining into law a wish-list of ‘rights’ for the ‘artificial reproductive technology’ industry.”

Sarah Holliday is a reporter at The Washington Stand.