John Oliver reveals ‘bunch of reasons’ Alabama’s IVF ruling is ‘wrong’

‘You can say we just want more kids, but you’re making life incredibly hard for people, including those who desperately want them’

Amelia Neath
Monday 26 February 2024 20:05 GMT
Tuberville gives rambling response on IVF

John Oliver slams the “wrong” frozen embryo ruling in Alabama by pointing out the ironic outcome for people who back the decision.

The Alabama Supreme Court recently ruled that frozen embryos have the same status as children in wrongful death lawsuits.

However, this has created various issues and possible consequences for people who are going through the process of IVF and has even led to multiple fertility clinics pausing treatment.

“You can say we just want more kids, but you’re making life incredibly hard for people, including those who desperately want them," Oliver said on Last Week Tonight.

He said that the state’s Supreme Court’s decision was “wrong for a bunch of reasons. Mainly if you freeze an embryo, it’s fine. If you freeze a person, you have some explaining to do”.

He criticised the “seismic decision” as IVF is expensive and takes weeks of monitoring and said, “You can’t just hit pause and wait out a court case.”

The court ruling originated from an incident in 2020 when a patient destroyed several embryos at an IVF clinic.

While Oliver admitted that the incident was “genuinely horrible”, he also caveated that “somebody walking into a lab and dropping frozen embryos just isn’t murder. If anything, it sounds like the script for a pretty tasteless Mr Bean sequel – but that is it”.

Alabama Justice Jay Mitchell wrote in the majority ruling last week that an 1872 state law allowing parents to sue over the death of a minor child also applied to embryos, which opens the door for the owners of the embryos to sue the clinic for wrongful death.

“Unborn children are ‘children’ ... without exception based on developmental stage, physical location, or any other ancillary characteristics,” Justice Michell wrote.

“The reason clinics are pausing treatment right now is that nobody quite knows what it means for an embryo to be the legal equivalent of a person going forward,” Oliver continued.

The show host then sounded off at all the issues that have been created due to this ruling.

“What happens if an embryo is stored improperly? What if they’re, as inevitably happens, leftover or destroyed in the implantation process? What about genetic testing, which can reduce the risk of miscarriage but does carry a slight risk of damaging embryos? Would that now be considered a wrongful death? It is chaos,” he said.

Even politicians cannot give a concise response over how the new ruling has undoubtedly impacted both patients and medical providers alike.

Alabama’s senator, Tommy Tuberville, had a difficult time talking to reporters who questioned him on the ruling that states that embryos are children.

“I was all for it,” Mr Tuberville’s initial response relayed. “We need to have more kids… I thought this was the right thing to do.”

However, when he was handed further questions about how this will affect people who need IVF treatments to have children, he seemed genuinely stumped for words, or as Oliver said it, realising “the problems with his position in real-time”.

“Well, that’s a hard one, it really is, really hard,” he said when asked about people no longer having access to IVF.

“Well, guess what, Tommy,” Oliver shouted back. “Since your political philosophy seems to begin and end with, ‘we need more kids,’ you’ll be thrilled to know that thanks to a judge in Alabama, there’s now whole freezers full of them! Go play with all those frosty kids, Senator! Or, maybe that’s not what you had in mind when you think of children.”

Around two per cent of babies in the United States are born through IVF, according to Dr Zev Williams, director of the Columbia University Infertility Center, who spoke to CNN.

With clinics pausing their treatments, the result may have been exactly the opposite of what the “we need more kids” supporters like Mr Tuberville wanted.

Oliver did not hasten to add that rulings like these are “long pushed by hardline anti-abortion groups, which Republicans have spent decades courting”.

“Some politicians suddenly seem alarmed to have to deal with the consequences of a movement they have actively empowered,” he added, citing Republican candidate Nikki Haley, who is still defending her belief that frozen embryos are children but has also come out and aired her grievances with the Alabama Supreme Court ruling, as seen in an interview she did with CNN.

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