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Alabama Supreme Court’s Landmark Ruling: Frozen Embryos Acknowledged as ‘Children’


The Alabama Supreme Court declared that frozen embryos qualify as ‘children,’ granting three couples the right to pursue wrongful death suits following an incident that led to the destruction of their frozen embryos. This ruling, delivered on a recent Friday, overturns a prior judgment by Mobile County Circuit Court Judge Jill Parrish Phillips, who had dismissed the case in 2022, marking a significant shift in the interpretation of Alabama’s Wrongful Death of a Minor Act, according to The Birmingham News.

The controversy began when a patient at Mobile Infirmary Medical Center, inadvertently accessed a cryogenic storage area and mishandled the embryos stored by the Center for Reproductive Medicine. The legal challenge centered on whether the embryos, stored outside the womb, could be considered under the Wrongful Death of a Minor Act—a question the state’s highest court answered affirmatively.

Justice Jay Mitchell, writing for the Alabama Supreme Court, emphasized the Act’s broad application to all unborn children, dismissing any limitations based on their developmental or locational status. This stance aligns with a broader legislative framework in Alabama, reflecting a constitutional amendment aimed at extending legal protections to ‘unborn life.’

The ruling stems from an event at Mobile Infirmary, where a lapse in security allowed an unsupervised patient to enter the cryogenic storage facility, leading to the accidental destruction of the embryos. This incident, which the lawsuits claim resulted from negligence and a breach of contract, highlights significant questions about the responsibilities of medical facilities in handling and securing sensitive reproductive materials.

Alabama’s Supreme Court decision underscores a complex intersection of reproductive rights, legal definitions of life, and the mourning process of would-be parents. It also raises pertinent questions about the scope of wrongful death statutes and their applicability to pre-birth stages of human development.