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Alabama GOP lawmakers advance solution to protect IVF services – Democrats push for referendum on personhood 

State lawmakers from both parties introduced bills this week with the goal of protecting in vitro fertilization (IVF) providers from legal liabilities following a February 23 ruling by the Alabama Supreme Court that defined frozen embryos as “children” – leading many clinics to suspend their services to families in the days following the ruling.

State Sens. Tim Melson and Larry Stutts, two North Alabama doctors who serve over the Senate Healthcare Committee are carrying two bills to shield entities and individuals involved in providing IVF services from criminal and civil actions except in cases of intentional misconduct unrelated to IVF services. 

RELATED: Governor Kay Ivey: In vitro fertilization ‘fosters culture of life’

On Wednesday, State Sen. Larry Stutts (R-Tuscumbia), led members of the Senate Healthcare Committee to move forward those bills, which have crystallized as the official GOP legislative solution to concerns from both patients and providers. 

“You know, I have practiced OBGYN For 31 years in Alabama and have referred many, many patients for infertility treatment and have delivered many babies that are a result of IVF treatment,” Sen. Stutts said. and “I have, I think, a unique understanding and position of what these issues are.”

The committee approved both SB159 and SB160, which could be signed by Governor Kay as soon as next week if agreed on by both the House and Senate. 

“We simply need to say what you’ve been doing is working and you were doing it before a couple of weeks ago, and you can start back doing it now because we’re going to protect you from that civil and criminal liability,” Stutts said. 

“I don’t think we ought to legislate a standard of care,” Stutts said. “The American Fertility Society takes care of that. The practice of infertility medicine has evolved over the years, and is better now than it has been.”

Senate Republicans also advanced HB160 by State Sen. Tim Melson (R-Florence), which was substituted with language removing a retroactive provision and an automatic repeal provision. Melson said, with those changes made, and this bill in place, patients are the highest priority. 

“My bill, I vetted it through UAB and Cooper Surgical, which makes the supplies – and also the trial lawyers – to make sure that we got to a spot that not all of them were completely happy, but they realized they had to give and take to help these individuals, which is the whole goal, is to help the patients of Alabama,” Sen. Melson said. 

RELATED: Trump calls on Alabama lawmakers to ensure IVF availability – ‘I strongly support’

In the lower chamber of the Alabama Legislature, support for a much heavier-handed solution to the Alabama Supreme Court ruling is being promoted by Democrats. 

On Tuesday, House Minority Leader Anthony Daniels (D-Huntsville) introduced legislation that would overturn the ruling through a constitutional amendment designed to entirely redefine the status of extrauterine embryos in contrast to a 2018 amendment that affirmed the sanctity of unborn life. Such an amendment would require Alabama voters to again decide on the issue.

Daniels’ bill would amend the Alabama Constitution to define that an extrauterine embryo, fertilized or not, is not considered to be any form of personhood for any purpose under law. 

That proposal signed onto by all members of the House Democratic Caucus.

“I think anything short of actually pausing the Supreme Court decision is not something that I am particularly excited about,” Daniels told Yellowhammer News. 

“Because I think that if there’s still these questions, and uncertainty, then it causes more confusion long term. The Supreme Court decision can’t be any more anti-life, right? It’s the opposite,” Daniels said. “Because if life is what we’re focusing on, and this is the last, best option for parents and families to give them hope of having a child one day, I can’t see how anyone would want this decision to stand.”

RELATED: Britt says in vitro fertilization is pro-family, ‘deserves protection’

In the House, State Rep. Terri Collins (R-Decatur) is carrying the companion bill to Republicans’ fix, as advanced by the Senate Healthcare Committee today. Changes made by Senators are expected to be adopted by the House Health Committee later today. 

“From the moment the House became aware of the recent Alabama Supreme Court Ruling, we made it a priority to take the steps necessary to protect our IVF clinics and allow them to continue assisting hopeful parents,” Alabama Speaker of the House Nathaniel Ledbetter said. “Providing temporary immunity to IVF clinics gives them the security and assurances needed to reopen immediately while also allowing the House and Senate ample time to develop an airtight, permanent solution.” 

Grayson Everett is the state and political editor for Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @Grayson270.

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