Alabama Lawmakers Advance Bills in a Race to Protect IVF

Alabama lawmakers overwhelmingly advanced legislation on Thursday that would shield doctors, clinics and hospitals offering in vitro fertilization treatment, clearing a major hurdle in their race to enshrine protections for reproductive medicine into law.

The scramble comes after a State Supreme Court ruling this month found that, under Alabama law, frozen embryos should be considered children, upending I.V.F. treatment across the state and leading multiple clinics to stop offering the treatments to avoid possible liability.

The Senate unanimously passed its version of the measure, while the House approved its bill on a 94-to-6 margin, with a few lawmakers abstaining. Final passage is expected in the coming days, and Gov. Kay Ivey, a Republican, has indicated that she will support such a proposal.

The quick pace of the legislation underscores how most Republicans in Alabama are anxious to show their constituents that they are not standing in the way of the many families who turn to I.V.F. as a way to have a child.

National Republicans — including former President Donald J. Trump, the front-runner for the party’s presidential nomination — have also been quick to emphasize their support for reproductive medicine, and encouraged Alabama lawmakers to act.

But the debate on Thursday also made clear that the State Supreme Court ruling has raised complex and uncomfortable questions for Republicans, who must reconcile a long-held belief that life begins at conception with the science of I.V.F. treatment.

Notably, the measures advanced on Thursday do not address the court’s assertion that frozen embryos should be considered children, but focus instead on protecting providers of the treatment from civil or criminal liability. It remains unclear, as some lawmakers pointed out during debate, whether the legislation will invite new lawsuits or do enough to ensure the continuation of I.V.F. treatments in the state.

And while the votes were overwhelmingly in favor, both Republicans and Democrats expressed frustration with the scope of the legislation. Some Republicans in the House objected to a clause that would allow the measure to retroactively take effect for possible cases outside of the lawsuit that prompted the ruling. They also questioned why lawmakers dropped a bid to end the law in June 2025, which some saw as a possible deadline to force lawmakers to act further.

Representative Terri Collins, the legislation’s lead Republican author in the House, framed the measure as a way to ensure clinics could safely reopen in the state while lawmakers wrestle with the moral, legal and theological questions of assigning the rights of a person to an embryo.

“We’re going to continue to need to work together to fix the problem,” she said. “But right now we were wanting to get the clinics open for the families to be using them, and this does that.”

Democrats, who largely joined Republicans in backing the measures, also questioned whether they did enough to protect not only doctors, but also the parents receiving I.V.F. treatment. Top Democrats put forward separate bills — including a constitutional amendment — that explicitly said embryos should not be considered children, but those have largely been ignored by the Republican supermajority.

State Representative Chris England, a Tuscaloosa Democrat, said the Republican-authored bill was “requiring us to be morally ambiguous and intellectually dishonest at the same time.”

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