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Nikki Haley says frozen embryos are babies, in response to Alabama ruling
Republican presidential candidate’s comments seen as endorsement of a controversial ruling by Alabama’s Supreme Court.
Republican presidential candidate Nikki Haley says she believes frozen embryos created through in vitro fertilisation (IVF) were babies, in comments seen as an endorsement of a controversial ruling by the Alabama Supreme Court.
Haley addressed the issue in TV interviews on Wednesday, days after Alabama’s top court said frozen embryos in test tubes should be considered children.
The ruling has rattled doctors and patients in reproductive medicine and caused the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) to temporarily pause IVF treatments.
“Embryos, to me, are babies,” Haley told NBC News. “When you talk about an embryo, you are talking about, to me, that’s a life. And so I do see where that’s coming from when they talk about that.”
The former South Carolina governor added that she had her son after using artificial insemination, a different procedure which does not involve embryos in a lab.
Asked in a CNN interview later on Wednesday about the remarks, she said: “I didn’t say that I agreed with the Alabama ruling.” She later added, “Our goal is to always do what the parents want with their embryo. It is theirs.”
Haley is the last major 2024 Republican presidential challenger to frontrunner Donald Trump.
The two will face off a third time on Saturday in her home state of South Carolina, with Haley again trailing in opinion polls but refusing to drop out.
Trump has not publicly mentioned the Alabama ruling.
The southern state’s top court issued its controversial decision on Friday in a pair of wrongful death cases brought by three couples who had frozen embryos destroyed in an accident at a fertility clinic.
The embryos, stored in a cryogenic nursery, were destroyed by a patient who wandered into the nursery and accidentally dropped several of them on the floor.
Justices, citing anti-abortion language in the Alabama Constitution, ruled that an 1872 state law allowing parents to sue over the death of a minor child “applies to all unborn children, regardless of their location”.
“Unborn children are ‘children’ … without exception based on developmental stage, physical location, or any other ancillary characteristics,” Justice Jay Mitchell wrote in Friday’s majority ruling by the all-Republican court.
The ruling was greeted by widespread shock in Alabama, with patients confused about whether to proceed with IVF and others wondering whether to move their embryos, according to news reports.
The University of Alabama at Birmingham has meanwhile paused IVF treatments due to fear of prosecution and lawsuits, according to a hospital representative.
“We are saddened that this will impact our patients’ attempt to have a baby through IVF, but we must evaluate the potential that our patients and our physicians could be prosecuted criminally or face punitive damages for following the standard of care for IVF treatments,” the university statement said.
The White House said the ruling would create chaos for American families.
“This decision is outrageous – and it is already robbing women of the freedom to decide when and how to build a family,” Vice President Kamala Harris said in a post on X.
What does Alabama’s Supreme Court ruling on embryos mean for Mississippi?
JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) – The Alabama Supreme Court has ruled that frozen embryos can be considered children under their state law – but what could that mean for you in Mississippi?
“It actually is counter to trying to help people have a family,” Dr. Randall Hines explained.
Dr. Randall Hines says in vitro fertilization or IVF specialists like he and his team, have one goal every day.
“We are about helping people have families, we think it’s one of the most important things in the world. And we’re doing everything we can to do that safely and effectively,” Dr. Hines said.
After the Alabama Supreme Court ruled that frozen embryos can be considered children under their state law, patients could be at risk.
“The Alabama ruling would put us back into the 1970s in the way that we did in fertility care back then. You would have to obtain one egg, one sperm, and hopefully create an embryo – which wouldn’t happen in every case,” Dr. Hines said. “Then once you had an embryo, you would transfer that one embryo and if it failed, you’d start the whole process over.”
Now, freezing allows clinics to extract multiple embryos during one procedure and use them as needed by the patient.
According to a recent survey, four in ten adults say they have used fertility treatments or personally know someone who has. That number could decrease if costs go up.
“There would be repeated failures, patients would go through repeated procedures, it would be incredibly expensive and painful for the patient,” Dr. Hines explained.
With Alabama changing the landscape for how IVF is discussed – could Mississippi have a similar fate ahead? Dr. Hines doesn’t believe so.
“In 2011, there was a constitutional amendment in Mississippi, that would declare an embryo, a person. In the early days, that amendment was favored by a large percentage of people in polling. But when it came time to voting people soundly defeated that, because people became educated on what the implications of that would be for your sister, your daughter, your granddaughter, so forth, and so on,” Dr. Hines said.
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How Alabama's ruling that frozen embryos are 'children' could impact IVF
Frozen embryos are people and you can be held legally responsible if you destroy them, according to a ruling by the Alabama Supreme Court on Friday.
The decision could have wide-ranging implications for in vitro fertilization clinics and for hopeful parents.
All Things Considered
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This interview has been lightly edited for length and clarity.
Ailsa Chang:Mary Ziegler:Chang: Ziegler:
So in other words, some anti-abortion groups argue that if an embryo was a person, every single embryo created has to be implanted, either in that person who’s pursuing IVF, or some other person who “adopts the embryo.” So as a result of that, it may radically change how IVF works, how cost effective it is, and how effective it is in allowing people to achieve their dream of parenthood.
Chang: Ziegler: Chang: Ziegler: Chang: Ziegler: Roe v. Wade
Copyright 2024 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.
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