Life Advocacy Briefing

March 4, 2024

Grave Risk / What Did the Alabama Court Really Say? / The Troubling Reality of IVF
Senate Sponsors of Wild West IVF / House Sponsors of Companion IVF Bill
Further Warnings about the Duckworth-Wild Bill

Grave Risk

SEN. TAMMY DUCKWORTH (D-IL) & 46 EQUALLY RADICAL COLLEAGUES last month filed a lengthy bill seeking to federally shelter the in vitro fertilization industry from state regulation or liability. She is now using as impetus the recent Alabama Supreme Court ruling holding an IVF facility negligently responsible for the deaths of several stored human embryonic babies.

The “Access to Family Building Act” – S-3612 – was also filed in the House as HR-7506 by Rep. Susan Wild (D-PA) and 79 fellow Democrats. (The sole Republican co-sponsor, Florida’s Rep. Ana Paulina Luna, withdrew her name after the Alabama Supreme Court ruling that has brought IVF to the fore; we commend her.)

Both bills have been assigned to committee in their respective houses, but Sen. Duckworth issued a news release demanding “unanimous consent” for immediate consideration in the Senate.

Neither the pro-life movement nor the Republican Party and its pro-life officials and candidates appear prepared to communicate truth to the American people about the dangers and pitfalls of the in vitro fertilization industry or of officially holding them harmless for the immense risks involved.

We pray that the Senate will not rush to judgment in this matter, though we know that is exactly what the abortion cartel and the IVF entrepreneurs intend.

Knowing that some Americans who are as committed as we are to the right to life have, in their personal desperation to parent children, embraced IVF, as former President Trump seems to have done in hasty response to the Alabama ruling, we wish to assure our readers we mean no offense to those who will be reacting in fear to the distorted news reports around this issue. But we do believe it is important for our readers to reflect on realities in this arena as we understand them.

And we stand against the Duckworth-Wild bills and urge Senators to resist “immediate consideration” so that the proposals’ implications can be better understood before votes are cast.

Later in this Life Advocacy Briefing, we publish a newsworthy, thoughtful commentary by a Heritage Foundation researcher which was first published by Newsweek; it offers a summary – and readjustment of public perception – of the Alabama court ruling that has generated such unwarranted controversy.

And we publish below a stunning blog entry by a Catholic priest who we believe is unusually informed about IVF and seems motivated by a true pro-life commitment, not simply by church dogma. It offers a perspective our readers will not see in the mainstream – or even conservative – mass media, one which we believe is worthy of your consideration and on which we invite you to join us in prayer.


What Did the Alabama Court Really Say?

Feb. 23, 2024/Updated Feb. 27, 2024, Newsweek commentary by Emma Waters, Heritage Foundation research associate

             For too long, the fertility industry in the United States has functioned like the Wild West. Few federal laws regulate in vitro fertilization (IVF) treatments, and only a handful of state laws – such as Louisiana’s embryo protection law and Colorado’s ban on anonymous egg and sperm donation – address the moral and ethical questions raised by the artificial creation of human life.

             A landmark decision by the Alabama Supreme Court could change all of this. Last Friday, the court ruled 7-2 in favor of protecting embryonic human life under the state’s Wrongful Death of a Minor Act. “Unborn children are ‘children’ under the Act,” contends Justice Jay Mitchell in the primary opinion, “without exception based on developmental stage, physical location or any other ancillary characteristics.”

             This decision ensures that the well-being of children, not financial gain, is the top priority when it comes to IVF and embryonic cryopreservation.

             The case arose in 2020 when a patient in a Mobile, Alabama, hospital wandered into an adjoining, unsecured fertility clinic and accidentally destroyed a container of frozen embryonic children. When the parents first sued the clinic and the hospital for negligence under the Wrongful Death of a Minor Act, the trial court sided with the defendants, claiming that “the cryopreserved, in vitro embryos involved in this case do not fit within the definition of a ‘person’ or a ‘child,’” but are the ‘property’ of the parents.

             That initial ruling highlights a harsh reality: IVF treatments in the United States rely on the routine destruction of embryonic life, either intentionally or through neglect. Clinics often create a surplus of embryonic children to test them for genetic problems or to select embryos based on their sex or possible features. They then implant wanted embryos, or freeze them for later use, and destroy the unwanted embryos.

             As news of the state supreme court’s decision spreads, many warn that it could threaten access to IVF or place undue burdens on fertility clinics. On Wednesday, for example, the University of Alabama Birmingham (UAB) announced that it was suspending IVF treatments until further notice.

             But that’s not what the decision says. The state supreme court didn’t outlaw IVF; it simply recognized that embryonic children are persons under the law. As Chief Justice Tom Parker points out in his concurring opinion, “Although it is for the Legislature to decide how to address this issue, I note briefly that many other Westernized countries have adopted IVF practices or regulations that allow IVF to continue while drastically reducing the chances of embryos being killed, whether in the creation process, the implantation process, the freezing process or by willful killing when they become inconvenient.”

             So, UAB’s decision to shut down its fertility clinic doesn’t mean that the state supreme court’s decision is extreme or anti-IVF. It simply suggests that UAB felt its protocols for dealing with embryonic human life weren’t compatible with the high standard the court adopted in this decision. In short, it says a lot more about the extremism of an unregulated fertility industry than the extremism of the court.

             A decision to hold fertility clinics to a higher standard should be a great encouragement to both potential parents and children. Embryonic children in Alabama will now be treated with the level of love and care that any parent would want for their child. As Justice Mitchell’s majority opinion makes clear, there exists no “unwritten exception” in the law that takes away the legal status of “unborn children who are not physically located ‘in utero’… at the time they are killed.”

             The defendants argued that the location of the child determines his or her status as a “person” or “child,” and thus children within a biological womb are protected, while extrauterine embryonic children are not. In the majority opinion, Justice Mitchell took this claim on directly, arguing that if the personhood of a given child relies on the child’s development “in utero” or his or her delivery from a biological as opposed to an artificial womb, then “even a full-term infant or toddler conceived through IVF and gestated to term in an in vitro environment would not qualify as a ‘child’ or ‘person’” under Alabama state law.

             Everyone knows that would be wrong. Despite claims that Alabama is prohibiting IVF, the truth is that this ruling merely ensures that parents using the service can rest assured that their children will receive the same legal protections as everyone else’s. Lawmakers around the country should see this decision as an opportunity to put the well-being of innocent children first.


The Troubling Reality of IVF

Feb. 28, 2024, blog post by Fr. David Nix under the pen name Padre Peregrino, reprinted by LifeSiteNews

             In vitro fertilization (IVF) is defined by Yale Medicine as “a procedure that involves retrieving a woman’s eggs and a man’s sperm sample and combining the two in a laboratory dish.” Most Catholics in the pro-life movement are against IVF because “IVF replaces the marital act with a laboratory act and that [is] an affront to the dignity of a child who is conceived.”

             While that is true, the main reason we should be against IVF is not a violation of the 6th Commandment, but rather a violation of the 5th Commandment: IVF eradicates many embryos (new individuals) to yield only a few living children.

             A Catholic woman named Jenny Vaughn has a blog called Catholic Sistas in which she courageously shared her conversion story following the IVF procedures done by her and her husband.  She wrote:

             The doctor had retrieved 38 good eggs, of which 31 are fertilized. Over the next week, 16 of our embryonic children die and are discarded. Thirteen are cryogenically frozen, mostly two to a vial. Two fresh embryos are transferred to my uterus… . In desperation, we graduated to the expensive and complex process of IVF, where my eggs and my husband’s sperm would be taken out of our bodies, joined in a petri dish, and the resulting embryos would be inserted into my uterus. Even before we started down the IVF road, there was a voice inside of us whispering that it was wrong… . After the first transfer in July, 2008, we were thrilled to discover we were pregnant with twins, due the next April. But at 21 weeks’ gestation, our twins – Madi and Isaiah – were born prematurely and only lived for one hour each. During those brief, heartbreaking few hours, we held them, bathed them, dressed them and baptized them, holding onto their tiny, fragile bodies as long as we could. For the next year, I floated numbly through life. I believed the twins’ death was God punishing me for my past sins. My husband remained silent. Through it all, my heart was torn about the route we’d taken, as well as the fact that we still had 13 frozen children whose lives were on hold… . [Later] the contract also stated that, ‘It is rare for an embryo to not survive thawing.’ Half of our babies didn’t survive thawing. And, ‘Occasionally, an embryo is not found in the vial due to the nature of embryos to stick to the vial or pipette.’ What incredible dangers we’d exposed our children to! Only one phrase in the entire contract spoke to the humanity of our children by calling them babies… . Of 31 embryos created in a lab, only one survived to be raised by us.

             It is due to that last sentence that I call this article, IVF Kills Thirty Children For Every One That Survives. I glorify God for the conversion of Jenny and her husband. She wrote this about her conversion and her children: “Being created in a lab and then frozen violates the dignity of these tiny human beings. Thawing and discarding is killing. Reducing women to incubators and men to sperm donors is also undignified.”

             Mainstream media news reported a few days ago that “three couples whose frozen embryos were destroyed when a wandering Mobile hospital patient dropped the specimens can sue for wrongful death because the embryos were ‘children,’ the Alabama Supreme Court ruled Friday in reversing a judge’s decision to throw out the case.”

             This was an excellent decision of the Alabama Supreme Court. However, Mr. Donald Trump then made an astonishingly obtuse statement: “Like the overwhelming majority of Americans, including the vast majority of … pro-life Americans, I strongly support the availability of IVF for couples who are trying to have a precious baby. … Today, I am calling on the Alabama Legislature to act quickly to find an immediate solution to preserve the availability of IVF in America.”

             Maybe Trump is thinking something as shallow as this: “Abortion kills babies. IVF makes babies. Therefore abortion bad, IVF good… .” No, Mr. Trump – both abortion and IVF kill countless children as the first half of this article demonstrates. And no, the entire pro-life movement is not behind you in standing against the Alabama Supreme Court’s recent decision against IVF*. In fact, I know of a consecrated woman in Louisiana who does all of her pro-life prayer and protesting in front of an IVF clinic, not an abortion center. She understands they are one and the same on the moral front.

             IVF is always wrong because it kills a dozen unborn children via “embryo reduction” and then freezes another dozen children in “cryopreservation” just for one or two born alive. That’s murder, not just “debasing the dignity of the child.”

*Life Advocacy Briefing editor’s note: Fr. Nix is incorrect in this one point. The Alabama Supreme Court’s ruling was in a civil suit which held one IVF facility negligent in the deaths of several cryo-preserved embryonic children which were in the care of the facility. It did not outlaw IVF, but it did apply civil negligence law – appropriately, in our view – to award a financial benefit to the plaintiff parents as the responsibility of the IVF storage facility. The case and the court’s reasonable ruling is being blown out of proportion by those who believe society is served by trashing unborn human children. We do acknowledge – and appreciate – that the Court in its ruling defined babies stored in test-tubes as human persons regardless of their means or circumstances of conception. The same principal, incidentally, applies to children whose conception occurs in the course of a sex crime, which is why we do not countenance “exceptions.” The right to Life is a right, not subject to circumstance.


Senate Sponsors of Wild West IVF

ON S-3612, ILLINOIS SEN. TAMMY DUCKWORTH is joined by Democratic Senators Mark Kelly (AZ), Alex Padilla & Laphonsa Butler (CA), Michael Bennet & John Hickenlooper (CO), Richard Blumenthal & Christopher Murphy (CT), Thomas Carper & Chris Coons (DE), Jon Ossoff & Raphael Warnock (GA), Mazie Hirono & Brian Schatz (HI), Richard Durbin (IL), Angus King (ME), Benjamin Cardin & Chris VanHollen (MD), Edward Markey & Elizabeth Warren (MA), Gary Peters & Debbie Stabenow (MI), Amy Klobuchar & Tina Smith (MN), Jon Tester (MT), Catherine Cortez-Masto & Jacky Rosen (NV), Maggie Hassan & Jeanne Shaheen (NH), Cory Booker & Bob Menendez (NJ), Martin Heinrich (NM), Kirsten Gillibrand (NY), Sherrod Brown (OH), Jeff Merkley & Ron Wyden (OR), Bob Casey & John Fetterman (PA), Jack Reed & Sheldon Whitehouse (RI), Bernie Sanders & Peter Welch (VT), Tim Kaine & Mark Warner (VA), Maria Cantwell & Patty Murray (WA) and Tammy Baldwin (WI).


House Sponsors of Companion IVF Bill

ON HR-7506, PENNSYLVANIA REP. SUSAN WILD is joined by fellow Democratic Representatives Terri Sewell (AL); Nanette Barragan, Ami Bera, Judy Chu, Robert Garcia, Jimmy  Gomez, Sydney Kamlager-Dove, Ro Khanna, Mike Levin, Ted Lieu, Kevin Mullin, Adam Schiff, Brad Sherman, Eric Swalwell & Mark Takano (CA); Brittany Pettersen (CO); Jahana Hayes & John Larson (CT); Lois Frankel, Jared Moskowitz, Debbie Wasserman-Schultz & Frederica Wilson (FL); Nikema Williams (GA); Jill Tokuda (HI); Sean Casten, Bill Foster, Robin Kelly, Mike Quigley, Janice Schakowsky & Eric Sorensen (IL); Andre Carsen & Frank Mrvan (IN); Morgan McGarvey (KY); Lori Trahan (MA); Daniel Kildee, Hillary Scholten, Elissa Slotkin & Shri Thanedar (MI).

Also, Democratic Representatives Dean Phillips (MN); Steven Horsford, Susie Lee & Dina Titus (NV); Ann Kuster & Chris Pappas (NH); Josh Gottheimer & Andy Kim (NJ); Teresa Leger-Fernandez (NM); Yvette Clarke, Daniel Goldman, Grace Meng, Joseph Morelle, Patrick Ryan & Nydia Velazquez (NY); Donald Davis, Wiley Nickel & Deborah Ross (NC); Joyce Beatty, Shontel Brown & Greg Landsman (OH); Earl Blumenauer, Suzanne Bonamici & Andrea Salinas (OR); Christopher DeLuzio, Chrissy Houlahan & Mary Gay Scanlon (PA); Jasmine Crockett, Lloyd Doggett & Sheila Jackson-Lee (TX); Becca Balint (VT); Gerald Connolly, Jennifer McClelland, Robert Scott & Abigal Spanberger (VA); Rick Larsen & Marilyn Strickland (WA); and Gwen Moore & Mark Pocan (WI).


Further Warnings about the Duckworth-Wild Bill

Excerpts from Feb. 28, 2024, The Washington Stand by Family Research Council’s Sarah Holliday

             … The (Alabama Supreme Court) ruling … was 8 to 1 and based in Alabama’s Wrongful Death of a Minor Act, an 1872 state law that allows parents to sue if their child is killed.* The case was brought by three couples in Alabama who sued the Center for Reproductive Medicine in Mobile after five frozen embryos that belonged to the couples were dropped and destroyed after an unauthorized person entered a storage facility, raising questions about the unregulated IVF industry.

             Even though the justices were careful to limit the ruling to the destruction of embryonic human beings, many on the Left are couching the ruling as a referendum on IVF. … “What the Alabama Supreme Court said was that the location of where a person is doesn’t determine whether or not that human being is a person,” [explained Mary Szoch, director of the Center for Human Dignity at Family Research Council]. “And it doesn’t matter where that unborn child is; that child is always worthy of protection.” …

             According to the Daily Mail in 2012, “1.7 million embryos created [by] IVF have been thrown away, and just 7% lead to pregnancy.” [Ms] Szoch told The Washington Stand that “the IVF industry preys upon the deep desire for motherhood and fatherhood that many couples unable to conceive feel. The process is incredibly physically challenging for women, and risks include ectopic pregnancy, miscarriage, pregnancy-induced hypertension, multiple pregnancy and preterm labor.” But she added that “the emotional toll on the mother and father cannot be discounted.” …

             Taking advantage of the confusion over whether the Alabama ruling prohibits IVF, on Wednesday [Feb. 28], Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) will ask that S-3612, the so-called Access to Family Building Act, be considered for passage under unanimous consent. (If no Senator objects, the bill would pass without a vote.) The bill would ostensibly “establish a federal right to access IVF and other assisted reproductive technology services nationwide,” the Washington Post reported. But Quena Gonzalez, Family Research Council’s senior director of government affairs, told The Washington Stand that a bill making IVF a “federal right” is too vague and could pose threats to other rights. He also noted that it has an over-broad definition of artificial reproductive technology and includes a sweeping list of rights for those who create, traffic and experiment on embryonic unborn children.”