Sat. Apr 13th, 2024

For lesbian couples in Alabama, court’s embryo ruling is chilling

By 37ci3 Mar1,2024


Elishea Jones has lived in Alabama her entire life, but not since the state’s highest court ruled against it embryos are legally children Last week, and three major fertility clinics suspended in vitro fertilization procedures due to potential legal liability, Jones is questioning the whole thing.

“This is not a political issue. They argue that we care about saving babies and what is best for children. It keeps children from happening for some families,” said Jones, who attended a rally Wednesday outside the Alabama State House to defend IVF protections.

Jones, 34, and his wife, Paige, 41, live in Alabaster with their 4-year-old son, Fendley. The couple conceived Fendley through IVF in 2020 and froze three more embryos in hopes of having another child in the future.

Elishea Jones, left, and his wife, Paige.
Elishea Jones, left, and her wife, Paige, after Elishea’s egg retrieval on Oct. 21, 2019.Courtesy Elishea Jones

Katherine Robertson, a senior adviser to Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall, said in a statement last week that Marshall “does not intend to use the recent Alabama Supreme Court decision as a basis to prosecute IVF families or providers.”

Jones said the revelation did not give him much comfort: “I don’t believe it.”

An explosive device a day after the Attorney General’s warrant exploded Outside the marshal’s office. No one was injured, but Alabama authorities released video Wednesday in an attempt to identify the suspect.

For many same-sex couples, the events of the past week have been deeply disturbing.

Although IVF and other assisted reproductive technology procedures are not exclusive to same-sex couples, they are relied upon more than heterosexual couples if they are trying to conceive biologically.

“Banning IVF services or having them of uncertain legality disproportionately affects LGBTQ parents,” said Mary Ziegler, a professor at the University of California, Davis School of Law, whose expertise includes the history and politics of reproductive rights.

For Jones, the IVF process — including the sperm, drugs and egg retrieval procedure — cost $25,000 and took a significant toll on her body.

“It was one of the hardest things I’ve ever been through mentally and physically,” she says, but shrugs, “It was the only way to have a baby.”

Jones has looked into shipping embryos out of state, but worries about the legal ramifications.

“Will I get in trouble if I try to move them?” he asked. “As long as I can get them out of state, I will.”

Carrie McNair has a sign for IVF rights
Carrie McNair of Mobile holds a sign at an IVF rights rally outside the Alabama State House in Montgomery on Wednesday.Stew Milne / AP for the National Infertility Association

Polly Crozier, director of family advocacy for GLAD, an LGBTQ legal rights group, said the Alabama Supreme Court decision adds to the many challenges facing LGBTQ parents in the state.

“It’s an environment where it’s difficult to maintain your legal parent-child relationship, even if your children are born,” he said. “I think LGBTQ people see a sentence like that, and I think it really strikes fear in their hearts.”

“This IVF case is a very clear indication that the anti-abortion movement really has broader goals than abortion,” Crozier said. “For some activists abroad, the vision is the only real family, with a mother and father who create their children through intercourse and are genetically related to them.”

Thursday, the state House and state Senate adopted the bills This would give legal protection to IVF providers and patients. Both houses of the Legislature must vote on the single bill to go to Gov. Kay Ivey. Critics say the bills do not address whether an embryo created through IVF is considered a child under state law. state Supreme Court judgment.

Caroline Veazey doesn’t wait to see what happens with the state legislation. Veazey, 30, went through one unsuccessful round of IVF last year before trying again, successfully freezing six embryos last summer. The process cost him more than $20,000.

When notified of the Supreme Court decision, she started a GoFundMe campaign and frantically searched for ways to transport her embryos out of state.

“I literally Googled ‘how to transfer embryos across state’ or ‘how to ship embryos’ and started getting quotes,” says Veazey, who splits her time between Birmingham and Woodstock, Georgia. “You can prepare all the money for IVF; You can’t prepare for, ‘Oh my god, I have to get my embryos out of Alabama right away.’

Caroline Veazey, right, and her fiancé Candice Pulliam
Candice Pulliam, left, and her fiancé, Caroline Veazey, after Veazey’s egg hunt on July 20.Courtesy Caroline Veazey

For Veazey, becoming a mother would be a dream come true. “As someone who identifies as a lesbian, I knew at some point — partner or no partner — I was going to go through IVF,” she said.

“I have a very rough relationship with my mom, she doesn’t accept my sexuality,” said Veazey, a licensed counselor with many LGBTQ clients. “And I could only hope and wish that I could have a baby that I could fully accept and support. That’s my goal. That’s what I’ve always wanted.”

While moving the embryos to a warehouse near Woodstock seems like a natural solution, Veazey isn’t sure something similar won’t happen there. “Georgia is a red state. It can go either way and I have to get them to safety,” he said.

On Wednesday, Veazey signed documents disclaiming liability for the IVF clinic so she could release the frozen embryos to a company that would transport them to a storage facility in Washington state.

Former state representative Patricia Todd, who made history in 2006 as the first openly gay lawmaker elected to the legislature, is worried about Alabama’s future.

“I think a lot of young same-sex couples will decide to leave Alabama,” he said. “They don’t want to live in such a regressive state.”

Being moved is something Elishea Jones is reluctantly beginning to question. Vermont is very cold. Colorado is a long way from family. He gets emotional thinking about how he will one day explain all this to his son.

“I fought hard to have him, so I will fight for him. If s— goes down, we’re gone,” she said, wiping away a tear and then laughing. “I will protect her embryonic siblings.”



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