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Alabama Court Declares That Frozen Embryos Are Children, Using Strikingly Similar Rhetoric To NCGOP

Source: Editorial Board

The all-Republican Alabama Supreme Court ruled 8-1 this month that frozen embryos are children and thus people can be held liable for destroying them. The unprecedented ruling could have widespread implications for accessing in vitro fertilization and even contraception throughout the country. In Alabama, at least three IVF providers, including Alabama’s largest hospital, have already paused treatments, citing potential civil and criminal liability in the wake of the decision. 

In his concurring opinion, Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Tom Parker cited from the BIble and Christian theologians in declaring the “theologically based view of the sanctity of life.”

“Even before birth, all human beings bear the image of God, and their lives cannot be destroyed without effacing his glory,” Parker wrote.

While Parker’s concurring opinion is not official precedent, his declaration could inspire politicians in other states to push the envelope on ideas such as fetal personhood, which would give legal protections to embryos and fetuses and have a chilling effect on miscarriage management and in vitro fertilization.

Here in North Carolina, Republican politicians have been echoing such rhetoric for years. 

In a speech to the North Carolina Right to Life in January 2023, leading Republican gubernatorial candidate Mark Robinson declared, “The right to life should be given to every human being who is conceived, that child was conceived and created by God. Because before we were born, He had numbered every hair on our heads, and already had our destiny planned down.”

Robinson is stridently anti-abortion, calling it “murder” and “genocide,” saying it “shouldn’t ever happen,” and promising that as Governor he would sign a total abortion ban with no exceptions.

He also has strong views on when life begins, saying in a church sermon in 2022, “I don’t care how you slice it, I don’t care how you dice it, I don’t care what kinda science you do, life begins at conception.” 

Other Republican politicians running statewide have made efforts in recent years to codify the idea that life begins at conception into law. Dan Bishop, who is running for Attorney General, cosponsored the Life at Conception Act while in Congress, which defined a human being as one from “the moment of fertilization or cloning” and included no protections for processes like IVF.

And Judge Jefferson Griffin, Republican candidate for N.C. Supreme Court concurred with a Court of Appeals opinion that sought to establish that “life begins at conception.” The opinion was eventually withdrawn after legal experts raised concerns that it would set a dangerous precedent for “future cases involving parental rights and unborn children.” 

In the state legislature, several proposals have been introduced to codify the belief that life begins at conception, the latest version, House Bill 533 was introduced in March 2023. While these proposals and others like it have not advanced in the legislature, many Republican members have expressed their support for this position. For example, Senate Majority Leader Paul Newton has said he believes that “birth begins at conception” and even compared the effort to ban abortion through “incrementalism” to efforts to ban slavery.

A number of other Republican legislators have expressed similar sentiments, including: Senator Michael Lee, Senator Buck Newton, Senator Joyce Kraweic, Rep. Ken Fontenot, Rep. Kidwell, Rep. Moss, Rep. Goodwin, Rep. Brody, Rep. Adams, Rep. Cleveland, Rep. Pare, Rep. Allen Chesser, Rep. Arp, Rep. Crutchfield, among many others. 
Public polling shows that limits to IVF and contraception are extremely unpopular, and as a result, Republican strategists are desperately urging their candidates to come out in support of IVF during their campaigns. But past statements, votes, and case rulings from candidates like Robinson, Bishop, and Griffin speak volumes about the NC GOP’s true platform.


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