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Georgia Democrats push for state laws protecting reproductive rights following Alabama court ruling

Carrie McNair of Mobile holds a sign saying "You can't cuddle an embryo" at a rally in support of in vitro fertilization access at the Alabama Statehouse in Montgomery, Alabama on Feb. 28, 2024. The rally took place before scheduled committee hearings in the Alabama Legislature on legislation to protect IVF. (Credit: Brian Lyman/Alabama Reflector)

Jill Nolin, Georgia Recorder
February 29, 2024

Georgia Democrats are pressing their Republican colleagues to protect access to in vitro fertilization after the Alabama Supreme Court recently ruled that fertilized eggs are children under that state’s law.

“Georgians need certainty to know that that level of terror will not be inflicted upon them,” said Sen. Elena Parent, an Atlanta Democrat who is the lead sponsor of the bill and the Senate minority caucus chair. 

“Probably right now there are couples here in Georgia questioning whether they should spend the money to embark on that journey knowing that that ability could be ripped from them at any time,” she said.

Democrats from both chambers held a press conference Wednesday to encourage the majority party to act on just-filed bills that would protect access to IVF and contraception, including condoms, birth control pills and IUDs.

 Sen. Elena Parent, an Atlanta Democrat, speaks at a Wednesday press conference where Democrats and reproductive rights supporters called for the Georgia General Assembly to protect access to IVF treatment and contraception. Jill Nolin/Georgia Recorder

“Our reproductive rights are fragile,” said Rep. Teri Anulewicz, a Smyrna Democrat who co-sponsored a bill in the House that would protect access to contraception. “We know that IVF is on the chopping block, and we know that it is just a matter of time for contraception. It is not a question of if, but when.”

In Alabama, IVF programs have been put on hold after a Feb. 16 Alabama Supreme Court decision that declared frozen embryos children and said parents could collect damages for their destruction under an 1872 state law, according to the Alabama Reflector.

The fallout from the ruling has spurred Alabama Republicans to push forward bills designed to protect access to IVF. One bill would provide civil and criminal immunity to providers following commonly accepted practices of care, and another would provide civil and criminal immunity for the “death or damage to an embryo” related to IVF.  

In Georgia, Senate Democrats have proposed spelling out in state law that any human egg or human embryo that exists outside of the uterus “shall not, under any circumstances, be considered an unborn child, a minor child, a natural person, or any other term that connotes a human being for any purpose under state law.”

Georgia’s 2019 abortion law defines an unborn child as “a member of the species Homo sapiens at any stage of development who is carried in the womb.” IVF is a process in which an egg is removed from a woman’s body, fertilized in a laboratory and then returned.

But supporters of reproductive rights have said they are not confident the law will protect patient access and say clarity is needed, particularly after what has played out next door.

Parent, who is an attorney, argued that some of the language in Georgia’s abortion law is confusing. In addition to a six-week ban on abortion, Georgia law also includes a tax break for expecting parents and other so-called personhood provisions.

“Our code is riddled with all kinds of places where there are question marks, and therefore, we need this strong, very clear, very simple statement that embryos outside of the uterus are not children,” she said Wednesday.

 Sen. Steve Gooch. Ross Williams/Georgia Recorder (file photo)

But Senate Majority Leader Steve Gooch dismissed the need for the bill Wednesday.

“It doesn’t take a lawyer to understand that a ruling by an Alabama court applies to Alabama. Democrats are disingenuously presenting their so-called solutions to problems that simply do not exist in Georgia,” Gooch said in a statement.

The Dahlonega Republican also criticized Parent for filing the bill too late for consideration through the normal legislative process. 

Thursday is Crossover Day, which is the deadline for a bill to leave at least one chamber to have a chance at passage this year. But Democrats said with Republican support, the protections could be added to a related bill through a legislative maneuver.

But Gooch shot down any chance of that happening in the Senate. 

“The most dangerous thing we can do as state lawmakers is to hastily address an issue not present in our state,” Gooch said.

Democrats also pointed to the lack of congressional action to enshrine access to contraception last year in response to a section of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas’ concurring opinion in the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization abortion case.

Thomas wrote the court should reconsider precedent-setting cases that used the same logic applied in Roe v. Wade, specifically that justices “should reconsider all of this Court’s substantive due process precedents, including Griswold, Lawrence, and Obergefell.” Griswold v. Connecticut ruling in 1965 recognized married couples’ right to use contraception. 

Last year, the Georgia Supreme Court sided with the state on the question of whether Georgia’s 2019 law was constitutional since it was passed when Roe v. Wade was still in place. But the rest of the lawsuit challenging the law is still pending in Fulton County Superior Court. 

Georgia Recorder is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Georgia Recorder maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor John McCosh for questions: Follow Georgia Recorder on Facebook and Twitter.

This article is republished from Georgia Recorder under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.