Opinion

Alabama’s I.V.F. Ruling Shows Our Slide Toward Theocracy

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If you don’t think this country is sliding toward theocracy, you’re not paying attention.

The drumbeat of incidents moving us ever closer to the seemingly inescapable future is so steady and frequent that we’ve developed outrage fatigue — we’ve grown numb.

For instance, on Tuesday, the Alabama Supreme Court ruled that frozen embryos are children, and that destruction of those embryos, even by accident, is subject to the state’s Wrongful Death of a Minor Act. In his concurring opinion, the chief justice of the court, Tom Parker, wrote, “Even before birth, all human beings bear the image of God, and their lives cannot be destroyed without effacing his glory.”

The ruling could mean less access to reproductive care in Alabama if specialists in the field of in vitro fertilization simply choose to practice in states that don’t threaten their efforts.

There have been cases before in which embryos were destroyed as a result of negligence, but the Alabama decision significantly ups the ante. It essentially turns cryopreservation tanks into frozen nurseries.

The idea is absurd and unscientific. It is instead tied to a religious crusade to downgrade the personhood of women by conferring personhood on frozen embryos.

I called Sean Tipton, the chief advocacy and policy officer at the American Society for Reproductive Medicine, who told me: “One of the points in the abortion debate is, ‘Is it really about abortion or is it about controlling women and controlling sex?’ And this clearly exposes the idea that it’s not just about abortion.” He said, “There is no more pro-life medical treatment available, ever, than in vitro fertilization, and this decision clearly threatens the ability for that to continue.”

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