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She sold her home and changed jobs so she could start IVF. After the Alabama Supreme Court ruling, that hope is now on hold

By Brammhi Balarajan and Isabel Rosales, CNN

Montgomery, Alabama (CNN) — Gabbie Price says she’s designed her whole life around in vitro fertilization (IVF) treatment.

She moved into a remodeled camper with her husband so they could afford the cost of IVF, she told CNN, adding the cost of their mortgage is now going toward IVF. They changed their diets. She got a new job for better health care benefits.

“I actually got an entire new job specifically for the IVF benefits,” she said. “Those benefits actually take effect from March 1. So we were days away from that when we found out about this ruling and the effects that it was going to have on IVF, and now we’re sort of in a waiting game again.”

All this long-endured sacrifice was in the hopes they would finally be able to start a family. But in the wake of an Alabama Supreme Court ruling that said embryos are children – and those who destroy them could be held liable for wrongful death – the future of IVF treatment in Alabama is hazy. Three clinics in the state have already put their treatment programs on pause.

“I am angry. I don’t really have a better word for it,” Price said. “I’m upset and hurt, not only for myself, but for the hundreds of other families.”

The Alabama ruling is the latest in a chain of domino-effect actions on reproductive care since the fall of Roe v. Wade. Since the Supreme Court decision that overturned the federal constitutional right to an abortion, states can decide when life begins – and while some have worked to safeguard abortion rights, others have restricted it, including 14 states with near-total bans.

But Alabama is the first known state to say that embryos are human beings, which could have daunting implications for the future of IVF care.

The ruling came from two wrongful death lawsuits from three sets of parents who alleged several embryos for IVF treatment were dropped on the floor in December 2020.

IVF is a reproductive treatment in which eggs are fertilized by sperm in a lab and transferred into a person’s uterus. First developed in the 1970s as a medical treatment for women with blocked fallopian tubes, this treatment has helped thousands of women conceive. About 2% of births in the United States are from IVF treatment.

However, doctors often create more embryos than needed – to maximize chances of pregnancy. Even for young, healthy patients, about 30 to 50% of embryos won’t develop into a pregnancy. Patients will also sometimes choose to freeze embryos, if they do not wish to get pregnant right away or for varying other reasons.

Now, any of those embryos are legal children under Alabama law.

The Medical Association of Alabama raised concerns the ruling will result in less IVF treatment, and fewer babies, in the state, and infertility experts have also warned it has daunting implications for the future of those seeking care in Alabama.

It may have effects outside the state, too: A religious freedom group in Florida is already using the Alabama case as precedent to argue against a proposed amendment that would protect abortion rights.

In Alabama, however, state lawmakers are now racing to protect the IVF process.

An Alabama House bill aimed at protecting in vitro fertilization treatments advanced on Thursday, just a day after being introduced. A companion bill also passed the state Senate Thursday afternoon, with lawmakers in favor hoping to have legislation ready for Republican Gov. Kay Ivey to sign into law next week.

Sponsored by Rep. Terri Collins and Sen. Tim Melson, the bills “would provide civil and criminal immunity to persons providing goods and services related to in vitro fertilization except acts or omission that are intentional and not arising from or related to IVF services,” according to the synopsis.

Both legislators said the goal of the bills is to get IVF clinics to reopen right away.

But even after a bill passes, it’s unclear how IVF clinics will respond and whether they will restart treatments.

For patients like Price, they’re left to consider what’s next.

Price says she’s spent six years – the majority of her nine-year relationship with her husband – putting everything she has into their dream of starting a family.

“I consider myself pretty lucky because we haven’t started our process yet,” Price said. “Because of the insurance I have, we do have the option to go out of state if that’s necessary, even though that’s not what we want to do. Many couples don’t have that option.”

™ & © 2024 Cable News Network, Inc., a Warner Bros. Discovery Company. All rights reserved.

CNN’s Devon M. Sayers, Shirin Faqiri, Eric Levenson, and Jacqueline Howard contributed to this report.

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