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Friday, April 12, 2024
The Observer

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'It's not a political situation,' court case ruling ignites IVF debate

In late February, an Alabama Supreme Court case ruled three couples, whose frozen embryos had been lost, could sue the In vitro fertilization (IVF) and hospital associated with the accident. The court case founded the couples’ ability to sue based on wrongful death of a minor child.

Since the ruling, IVF clinics in Alabama have temporarily stopped their operations to evaluate their practices and possible changes in light of the case. Beyond Alabama, the Supreme Court case highlights the debate surrounding IVF across the United States.

“To govern ourselves wisely, justly and humanely, we must begin by articulating the problem before us in its full complexity, without question begging,” law professor Carter Snead said.

Snead, an expert on bioethics and director of the de Nicola Center for Ethics and Culture, testified in front of the United States Senate Committee on the judiciary on March 20. Snead discussed how he believes the government should move forward to address the varied policies regarding abortion and IVF.

In his testimony, Snead called upon the need for accuracy within the legal landscape, which was highlighted as an effect of Alabama’s IVF ruling.

“A recent Alabama case has been widely misdescribed as a theocratic power grab heralding the demise of IVF,” Snead said. “In fact, the victorious plaintiffs there were IVF patients suing a clinic for the negligent destruction of their frozen embryos, using a civil statute that already allowed such claims for the death of embryos in the womb. The decision did not depend on and had nothing to do with Dobbs. In response, the conservative legislature and governor moved immediately to grant blanket civil and criminal immunity to IVF clinics for such misconduct.”

While the conversation surrounding this ruling draws national attention, various student groups within the Notre Dame community have found relevance and voice in this conversation. 

“Unfortunately, in the process of IVF, many embryos are created and never fertilized, leaving them abandoned,” Notre Dame Right to Life president Kylie Gallegos said. “Furthermore, our club is Catholic, so beyond the creation of extra embryos, we also oppose the practice of IVF because it separates the creation of children from the unity of spouses and the life-giving nature of marriage.”

According to Gallegos, Notre Dame Right to Life fights for one’s right to life to be recognized without regard to the situation of conception. The club rallies for the “dignity” of life from conception to natural death.

“The million frozen babies around the United States are a tragedy, and we were happy to see the ruling in Alabama because it offers hope and a window into the security of rights a post-Roe American can have for unborn children,” Gallegos said.

Two weeks ago, the club hosted an inner club debate about embryo adoption to foster conversation around the topic. Gallegos stated that the club’s efforts will not change as an effect of the ruling because the public largely does not agree with their IVF stance.

“Spreading the truth of the goodness and sanctity of all human life from conception to natural death is the mission of our club, and we will continue to pray, educate and work to make this truth known until the dignity of IVF babies is recognized by all,” Gallegos said.

Irish for Reproductive Health is a nonprofit organization, not affiliated with Notre Dame and run by Notre Dame students. According to co-president Olivia Anderson, the organization is rooted in reproductive justice and ensuring that all have the right to have or not to have children along with body autonomy.

“We aren't happy with this ruling because it's violating that principle,” Anderson said. “It's violating the principle of reproductive justice because it's telling people who aren't necessarily able to have children, whether that's due to their sexual orientation [or] other infertility issues that they're not able to.”

Director of information and design Shelby Clennon stated the biggest issue with Alabama’s ruling is that choice is being taken away. In recognition of the LGBTQ+ community as well as those suffering from infertility, polycystic ovary syndrome, endometriosis and cancer, Clennon stated that the opportunity to have children is being taken away.

“The thing that I don't understand is how they are claiming to be so pro-life, yet they're stopping the people who want kids from having them. Because who's to say that someone doesn't file a lawsuit based on the fact that just their body didn't take the embryo,” Clennon said. “It's not the doctors fault. It's natural. It happens to so many people who go through IVF.”

Anderson acknowledged the court ruling avoided the root issue of the IVF debate: whether or not an embryo is to be considered a human. Irish for Reproductive Health emphasizes body autonomy and aims to facilitate conversation within their organization about IVF and embryos to educate more people and answer more questions.

“It's just kind of irritating the fact that it's something so insignificant to policymakers. Not insignificant in the sense that it's not a big deal, but insignificant in the fact that they shouldn't be trying to mandate this because it is a medical situation,” Clennon said. “It's not a political situation. That's just irritating in the fact that they're trying to make a huge point out of this when there's other things that they need to be worrying about instead of other people's choices in regards to having kids.”