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Would-be Ohio parents concerned about future of IVF after court ruling in Alabama

Technician handles IVF samples
Technician handles IVF samples

Since the Alabama Supreme Court ruled this week that a fertilized frozen embryo has the same legal standing as a baby, questions have been raised about the practice. But Ohioans going through in-vitro fertilization do not have reason to worry, at least in the short term.

Some hospitals and fertility clinics in Alabama stopped IVF treatment after the ruling was handed down, saying they are concerned patients or the clinics themselves will face legal challenges if embryos are discarded. That can often happen in the IVF process. And since the Alabama justices specifically said a fertilized frozen embryo has the same legal standing as a baby, there is concern over fertility treatments in general.

But IVF in Ohio isn’t being questioned. In November, voters passed a constitutional amendment guaranteeing reproductive rights for Ohioans. And Jaime Miracle, deputy director for Pro-Choice Ohio, said it specifically mentions protection for the right to obtain fertility services.

Miracle said one of the complaints lodged against the amendment by its opponents was that it goes too far. But she said there’s a reason why the amendment that voters approved expressly contained language to protect fertility treatments and contraceptives.

“There have been several bills throughout our history that have defined human life starting at conception which could impact access to IVF and some forms of birth control,” Miracle said.

Miracle said since 2010 when some Republican lawmakers supported a bill to give fertilized eggs the same legal status as people, there has been a move to chip away at abortion rights and reproductive health care. Miracle says while the amendment protects Ohioans‘ reproductive rights, those who support it need to remain politically active to protect it.

“An amazing amount of people came out and voted for the constitutional amendment last year. But that vote can be completely negated if the people in the U.S. House and Senate vote for a national abortion ban like Republican candidates for Senate are talking about doing right now,” Miracle said. “It could be completely undone if the people sitting on our Ohio Supreme Court don’t believe that that amendment fully protects us as to reproductive health care the way it was written to do.”

Ohio Right to Life President Mike Gonidakis said it’s important to remember the question posed in the Alabama ruling was over civil damages. And he said that’s already been dealt with here in Ohio. He referenced a situation at Cleveland’s University Hospitals in 2018 where 4000 embryos were lost because a cryo freezer malfunctioned. The hospital paid out millions in damages to the 950 affected families.

As far as where his organization stands on IVF treatment, Gonidakis said that Ohio Right to Life values life starting at conception.

“We believe all life should be protected and is sacred from the moment of conception to natural death. All life. When that embryo is created, absolutely it is a life and we believe at Ohio Right to Life that it should be protected and that is our position. But we do not have a position on fertility treatments of course,” Gonidakis said.

Politicians are weighing in on IVF

It's a dicey situation for some candidates who oppose abortion rights. Polls show many voters who oppose abortion actually favor IVF. Rep. Gary Click (R-Vickery), a staunch opponent of abortion in most cases, said he supports IVF if all of the embryos created are used.

“I believe there are ethical ways to have in-vitro fertilization. In fact, I know many pro-life Christian couples who have had in-vitro fertilization and are very happy parents. And life goes on," Click said.

In the past, Click has brought forward controversial legislation to ban abortions. He sponsored a “personhood” bill in 2022 that would have provided constitutional protection to fertilized eggs. It didn’t pass and he hasn’t brought it back, because there’s a difference between policy and politics.

“It’s a good policy. The ‘Personhood Act’ was great policy,” Click said. “But politics sometimes gets in the way of policy.”

The National Republican Senate Committee has put out a memo, noting strong support for IVF among voters. It urged GOP candidates to come out in support of the process. All three Republicans vying for the U.S. Senate in the March primary have done that with statements of support for IVF therapy, though the Ohio Democratic Party notes Moreno and LaRose have said they believe life begins at conception.

The man who one of them will go up against in the fall, Democratic incumbent U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, also supports IVF. But unlike the Republican candidates, he supported all of the elements of the reproductive rights amendment.

Contact Jo Ingles at
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