Could Georgia Face The Same Kind Of I.V.F Ruling As Alabama?

A gold set of the scales of justice

by John A. Tures, Professor of Political Science, LaGrange College

Alabama’s Supreme Court ruling stunned the nation, not just their own state, when they ruled that embryos were human beings. Would the next domino to fall could be those Georgia clinics that perform in vitro fertilization (IVF)? If so, would any sort of legislative reform protect them, because Georgia also has a “personhood” law on the books? Could anything stop the state’s highest court from emulating what Alabama does?

“The decision was issued in a pair of wrongful death cases brought by three couples who had frozen embryos destroyed in an accident at a fertility clinic. Justices, citing anti-abortion language in the Alabama Constitution, ruled that an 1872 state law allowing parents to sue over the death of a minor child “applies to all unborn children, regardless of their location,” according to VOA. In fact, Justice Jay Mitchell wrote “Unborn children are ‘children’ … without exception based on developmental stage, physical location, or any other ancillary characteristics,” according to the Associated Press, posted by the Voice of America (VOA).

That Alabama Amendment 2 that the justices based their ruling on passed 59.1% to 40.99% in 2018. Ballotpedia wrote “A “yes” vote supported this amendment to make it state policy to “recognize and support the sanctity of unborn life and the rights of unborn children, including the right to life” and to state that no provisions of the constitution provide a right to an abortion or require funding of abortions.”

Advertisement

Stunned by the unprecedented decision by the state’s highest court, which provided a significant pause to IVF clinics in Alabama, Governor Kay Ivey declared (according to Mike Cason with al.com) “Following the ruling from the Alabama Supreme Court, I said that in our state, we work to foster a culture of life,” Ivey said. “This certainly includes some couples hoping and praying to be parents who utilize IVF. Republican colleague in the Legislature Senator Tim Melson, along with Senate and House members, are working on a solution to ensure we protect these families and life itself. I look forward to continue closely following this issue.”

Oh Kay, you must not realize that any law you and Senator Tim Melson pass could be just as easily struck down as unconstitutional, so long as a court believes in a very different legal theory than most Americans.

And Georgia could be next to experience such a reproductive rights shocker. Because they, like Missouri and Alabama, have “personhood” laws that voters who love children didn’t realize could have cruel interpretations for childless couples seeking an IVF to raise a child.

“Georgia’s law is maybe the most far-reaching, granting specific rights including tax breaks and child support to unborn children. It took effect July 20 after a federal appeals court ruled in its favor,” writes the AP News Wire, as posted by The Independent. “Personhood laws could have far-reaching consequences that could hamper in vitro fertilization or subject women who have abortions to murder charges.”

That article was written back in 2022.

Are IVF procedures a big thing in the Peach State? According to an earlier 2022 article from Georgia Recorder, posted with The Cobb County Courier “Georgia welcomed just over 126,000 newborn infants in 2019, 1,915, or 1.5% of whom were born with the help of assisted reproductive technology, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data. Assisted reproductive technology includes fertility treatment where eggs or embryos are handled to establish a pregnancy, and IVF is the most common type. Nationwide, 2.1% of infants born in 2019 were from assisted technology births.”

Could the Alabama Supreme Court ruling lead to a similar move by the highest court in Georgia? Not necessarily, according to research by Rachel Garbus of The Atlanta Magazine back in 2022. “The language of fetal personhood in Georgia’s newly enacted law reads: ‘It shall be the policy of the state of Georgia to recognize unborn children as natural persons.’ It goes on to clarify that a natural person “means any human being, including an unborn child,’ and that ‘unborn child’ means a member of the species Homo sapiens at any stage of development who is carried in the womb.”

Garbus adds “Despite this broad language, the LIFE Act clarifies that not all fertilized eggs signify personhood. In interviews for this story, medical experts and legislators agreed that the term “womb” means that personhood does not apply to embryos created through assisted reproductive technology like in-vitro fertilization (IVF), in which embryos are created and stored at a fertility clinic. “‘The womb’ is not a medical term, but really ‘the womb’ means ‘uterine cavity,’” said Dr. Carrie Ann Cwiak, an OB-GYN, professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Emory School of Medicine, and one of several plaintiffs in a new lawsuit against Georgia’s abortion law. ‘If [an embryo] is outside the uterine cavity, then it appears that this isn’t anything that’s included in this bill.’”

John A. Tures is a professor of political science at LaGrange College in LaGrange, Georgia. His views are his own. He can be reached at jtures@lagrange.edu. His Twitter account is JohnTures2.

Advertisement