Leelee Ray and her husband, Austin, have been trying to have a baby for six years, through insemination procedures, two egg retrievals, four embryo transfers, an ectopic pregnancy that could have been deadly and eight miscarriages.

With four frozen embryos remaining in storage at a fertility clinic, the Rays, who live in Huntsville, Ala., decided to change course. In February, they turned to an agency in Colorado, where laws about gestational carriers are more forgiving than in Alabama, to find a woman to carry their baby.

It all came to a halt just days later, when the Alabama Supreme Court ruled that frozen embryos should be considered “extrauterine children” under state law and several fertility clinics in the state suspended I.V.F. treatments.

“When I called my clinic to ask how quickly I could get my embryos out of the state, they told me everything was paused, including shipping embryos,” Ms. Ray, 35, said.

Hoping to quell a national furor over the court’s decision, Gov. Kay Ivey, a Republican, signed legislation on Wednesday night shielding I.V.F. clinics against civil actions and criminal prosecutions related to the handling of embryos.

But for would-be parents like the Rays, considerable damage had already been done.

The ruling disrupted fertility treatments that are expensive, physically and emotionally taxing, and extremely time-sensitive, guzzling precious resources that many couples did not have. Their experiences may soon be repeated in other states as anti-abortion forces push to redefine the beginning of life.

The Rays’ surrogacy contract called for their embryos to be sent to Colorado as soon as possible. The surrogacy agency has been working with the couple to extend the deadline, but if the delays continue, the Rays may lose tens of thousands of dollars, as well as access to the surrogate they have chosen.

“I love that many in our legislature are people of faith who agree with my thoughts and beliefs,” Ms. Ray said. “But this isn’t a place for the government to be involved.”

“Now people are scared to death, and we’ve all been texting, saying, ‘Let’s move our embryos to California, the most liberal state we can think of, where we think it’s the last place this could happen,’” she added.

The court ruling caught some patients at pivotal, vulnerable points in their treatment.

Jasmine York, 34, an emergency and intensive care nurse in Alexander City, Ala., had just started a course of medication to prepare for implantation of a frozen embryo when her doctor called to say that the court decision had halted the process.

“I was completely taken aback,” said Ms. York, who describes herself as a Christian who doesn’t support abortion. (She wears a pin depicting a robed, Christ-like figure asking “Y’all need me?”)

Ms. York and her husband, Jared, have a 13-year-old daughter from her first marriage, but her husband has no biological children, and they very much want a baby. She felt both hopeless and a bit angry, she said. “At the end of the day, someone else’s opinion changed my future.”

She added: “Didn’t God give us science? Did he give us the ability to perform all these medical miracles? Doesn’t he work through them?”

Rebecca Mathews, a 36-year-old mother of two children via I.V.F., one of whom is named after her fertility doctor, was wrestling with different questions when the ruling came down.

She and her husband, Wright, had one remaining frozen embryo, and their family felt complete. But they had not decided whether to try for another pregnancy. “We thought we had time,” said Ms. Mathews, who lives in Montgomery, Ala.

The new law shielding I.V.F. clinics may offer the couple some breathing room, but how much is not clear. The law does not address the underlying legal issue — that frozen embryos are children under state law — and its protections are so broad that it may not survive legal challenges.

“It’s hard enough to decide what to do with these embryos,” Ms. Mathews said. “It’s a decision you need to make with your spouse and doctor. We do not need the government getting involved.”

National anti-abortion groups that believe that embryos — frozen just days after eggs have been fertilized — constitute life have come out against the new law. Over a dozen organizations, including Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America, urged Governor Ivey not to sign the bill, arguing that the court decision “simply requires fertility clinics to exercise due care over the lives that they create.”

One Alabama lawmaker who argued against the new law, State Representative Ernie Yarbrough, a Republican from Morgan, Ala., said the episode had “uncovered a silent holocaust going on in our state,” adding, “We are dealing with the life and death of children.”

Over the past two weeks, many parents and would-be parents who identify as Christian have struggled with conflicting feelings about the sudden intersection of religious belief and public policy.

Lauren Roth, 30, who has a 7-month-old baby born after I.V.F., was one of several people who attended a rally in Montgomery in support of the legislation to protect clinics. She and many others wore orange, a color supporters say has symbolized fertility since ancient times.

Ms. Roth and her husband, Jonathan, have seven frozen embryos. She would like to have all of them transferred to her uterus, she said, “as long as I’m healthy.”

“I personally believe that they are unique beings created in the image of God, that each is a unique genetic embryo that will never exist again,” Ms. Roth said. “I value the embryos as life, but that is a personal, individual belief.”

Other women going through I.V.F. disagreed, saying that an embryo in a test tube should not be considered a child.

“It can’t grow into a child outside the uterus,” said Mallory Howard, 34, who lives outside Mobile, Ala. “For me, that’s not conception.”

She has two children and was about to start a round of ovarian stimulation to prepare for egg retrieval when the ruling was issued. The procedure was delayed.

The court’s decision “means that every time you have sex and an egg is fertilized but doesn’t implant, and you never even know about it, that can be considered an abortion,” Ms. Howard said.

“We’re in the South, where people don’t want government dictating whether they should have a gun or not,” Ms. Howard said. “But they’re OK with the government saying reproductive rights are the government’s business, just because they agree with that agenda.”

Source link

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *