From the SFLA Blog

Frozen Embryos are Children According to God, Not the Law 

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Jordan Estabrook - 20 Feb 2024

What wouldn’t surprise any child who got an A on a secondary school biology test was big news in court recently when the Alabama Supreme Court found in an 8-1 ruling that the union of egg and sperm – even in a test tube – created LIFE. The court found that children conceived with IVF, also referred to as in-vitro fertilization, are indeed – wait for it – children.  

A Win for Life 

This incredible development is the result of a wrongful-death lawsuit put forth against a patient, who, according to The Washington Post, “mistakenly dropped and destroyed other couples’ frozen embryos… The court ruled the patient could, writing that it had long held that “unborn children are ‘children’ and that that was also true for frozen embryos, affording the fertilized eggs the same protection as babies under the Wrongful Death of a Minor Act.” 

This case was brought to the Alabama Supreme Court after its dismissal in lower court by three couples with destroyed embryos from The Center for Reproductive Medicine, P.C., and Mobile Infirmary Association d/b/a Mobile Infirmary Medical Center.  

In the ruling, Justice Jay Mitchell unpacks the Wrongful Death of a Minor Act.  

“The central question presented in these consolidated appeals, which involve the death of embryos kept in a cryogenic nursery, is whether the Act contains an unwritten exception to that rule for extrauterine children — that is, unborn children who are located outside of a biological uterus at the time they are killed.  

Under existing black-letter law, the answer to that question is NO: the Wrongful Death of a Minor Act applies to all unborn children, regardless of their location.” 

Imagine the relief of children across the country whose lives began with IVF. In fact, it’s believed that MORE THAN 10 MILLION CHILDREN have been born through IVF.  

According to the ruling and Alabama law cited in it, the Wrongful Death of a Minor Act, enacted in 1872, ” allows the parents of a deceased child to bring a claim seeking punitive damages ‘[w]hen the death of a minor child is caused by the wrongful act, omission, or negligence of any person,” provided that they do so within six months of the child’s passing. § 6-5-391(a). The Act does not define either ‘child’ or ‘minor child,’ but this Court held in Mack v. Carmack, 79 So. 3d 597 (Ala. 2011), that an unborn child qualifies as a ‘minor child.’” 

Underneath all the legal terminology and over a hundred pages of text lies the central point of this case. It’s the case Students for Life of America (SFLA) has consistently been making for almost two decades: an unborn child is a child. Full stop.  

Whether the child is created in a lab or through nature’s course doesn’t matter. Both have the same potential for life. After all, if IVF babies didn’t have the same value or same result as natural pregnancy, couples would forgo the procedure.  

The IVF Dilemma 

There is a dilemma that presents itself. While IVF does create life, it often leaves many lives frozen for an extended period and makes children into a commodity. It incentivizes creating a “designer baby” like one would do with a special breed of toy poodle. It becomes less about loving a child unconditionally, regardless of their health, looks, or sex, and instead incentivizes waiting for the “healthiest” or “best” embryo or waiting for the desired sex. 

Students for Life of America (SFLA) President Kristan Hawkins wrote in 2018 for The Washington Post, stating:  

“In the context in which we allow people to live if we are satisfied with all their characteristics, society moves away from children as a unique gift, deserving of our acceptance, care, and love to a commodity, available for purchase…We cannot tell children we love them unconditionally when we shopped for the perfect child and disposed of those that didn’t measure up.”    

A celebrity recently bringing this dilemma to the spotlight is Paris Hilton, who said she’s “waiting for the results to see if there’s any girls.” In case Paris isn’t aware, having children should never sound like picking out a designer handbag, and that’s what the IVF industry indirectly encourages.  

Bottom Line: Personhood is Determined by God, Not by the Law or Society  

While Alabama’s Supreme Court decision was a win for life, it’s not because the law has finally decided what life is and what isn’t – it’s because, in this case, they recognized life’s inherent value already determined by God.  

Consider the words of Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Tom Parker who quoted the Bible in in his remarks about the case: “Human life cannot be wrongfully destroyed without incurring the wrath of a holy God, who views the destruction of His image as an affront to Himself,” Parker wrote. “Even before birth, all human beings bear the image of God, and their lives cannot be destroyed without effacing his glory.” 

States don’t create human worth, but they can legally recognize it and offer protection to the least of these. We hope that more will follow Alabama’s example.  

READ NEXT: IVF and Abortion Are Commodifying Children 

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