MONTGOMERY — The Alabama House of Representatives' Health Committee passed a bill on Wednesday to address the recent in-vitro fertilization (IVF) ruling handed down by the Alabama Supreme Court.

IVF clinics in the state have halted services after a case originating from MobileLePage v. Mobile Infirmary Clinic, Inc., the Supreme Court held in a 7-2 decision that parents of frozen embryos killed at an IVF clinic when an intruder tampered with a freezer may proceed with a wrongful death lawsuit against the clinic for alleged negligence. 

House Bill 237 (HB237) by State Rep. Terri Collins (R-Decatur) would provide civil and criminal immunity to persons providing goods and services related to in vitro fertilization except for acts or omissions that are intentional and not arising from or related to IVF services. The bill would also apply retroactively, meaning the immunity provision would apply in the LePage civil case.

HB237 is identical to a bill filed by State Sen. Tim Melson (R-Florence).

The meeting was chaired by State Rep. Paul Lee (R-Dothan), who said that a public hearing was initially planned but called off. Despite no public hearing, several of the bill's supporters were permitted to speak on the legislation without hearing from those who signed up to speak in opposition. Lee said the supporters had "made some trips and have some interest" in the bill.

Three people were allowed to speak in support of the bill. Lee announced he would have called on more, but their handwriting was illegible.

LeeLee Ray was first to the podium and described a long process of seeking surrogacy after eight miscarriages and several surgeries. After matching with a surrogate in Colorado two weeks ago, she and her husband are unable to transfer their embryos to Colorado due to the current IVF restrictions.

Kailani Greenwood, a breast surgery physician's assistant, also spoke about her experience and success with IVF. Greenwood froze her eggs after being told that her treatment for Hodgkin lymphoma could affect her fertility.

"Last year, my husband Kyle and I decided to pursue IVF with Alabama Fertility," Greenwood said. "With the amazing care I received, I am overjoyed to say that I am currently 33 weeks pregnant with a healthy baby girl. I am living proof of why IVF is so necessary."

After the meeting concluded, two individuals who applied their names to the sign-up sheet to speak against the bill told 1819 News they were "furious" not to have the same opportunity as the others.

"I'm pretty upset that they had a sheet of paper in front of them that had people signed up to speak against the bill, and they completely ignored them," said D.J. Parten with End Abortion Alabama. "Those people deserve to be heard, especially when they're speaking for preborn children who don't have a chance to be heard.' IVF is a fantastic thing, but we need to understand that it needs to be done ethically, and the current IVF practices are unethical. You've got to count the cost when looking at this. We're talking about human lives. Life begins at conception; many of the people on this committee have said that before and have voted that way before. The people of Alabama said as much with the Constitutional amendment that brought about this whole debate, that life begins at conception. So are we just going to throw that life out when we've accomplished our goal of getting a baby implanted, we're going to discard the rest of them? It's unethical. It's wrong. We need to slow down, not ram this through and consider the implications of this."

Maegan Pierce echoed Parten's sentiments, saying the state should implement practices and guidelines that treat embryos less flippantly.

"I sympathize with the ladies," Pierce said. "I do have three living children, but I also have four in heaven. I had three miscarriages and one stillborn. So I understand the pain of reoccurring miscarriages, the pain of thinking you may not be able to have any more children; I can sympathize with that. However, someone needs to be a voice for these embryos. Many legislators have told us that life begins at fertilization, so we need to stand by that and be consistent.

Additionally, several others opposed to the bill attended the meeting, sharing information on possible IVF solutions. However, Lee would not allow 1819 News to see the list of speakers who signed up, so it's unclear if they intended to address the committee.

Lee said the bill is expected on the House floor on Thursday, and the earliest day for the governor's signature is Wednesday. The bill would go into effect immediately upon its signing.

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