Embryos Are Persons, Too, Says Court, in a Blow to Republicans Trying to Console Dissenting Voters

The Republican Party has long fuelled pro-life activism, whilst also enjoying support for In-Vitro Fertilisation (IVF), a medical process which routinely results in embryos that are eventually abandoned, destroyed, or donated to medical research. In late December, the Supreme Court of Alabama ruled in favour of legal personhood for frozen embryos created by IVF, defining them as "children" and stating that any end of such a life is wrongful, even with parental consent. The decision, whilst granting personhood to embryos, also implicitly rebukes the plaintiffs, reflecting the conflicting views that Governor Ivey and other Republican politicians have to reconcile. Whilst acknowledging that human life begins at conception, many Republicans praise IVF as a social good, despite its routine practice producing embryos that are abandoned or destroyed.

This ruling exemplifies the "ascendancy of a Christian legal movement" that has gained ground following the 2022 Supreme Court ruling which largely invoked the figure of the "unborn human being", according to professor Leslie Meltzer Henry. Republicans now have to make a careful political calculation, recognising the popularity of IVF but also maintaining their anti-abortion bona fides. Embryos are entitled to the same rights as persons under the 14th Amendment, but what remains to be seen is whether Republican politicians will attempt to constrain people's decision-making once they have something in their body, beyond just the point of conception.

Kimberly Mutcherson, a professor at Rutgers Law School, highlights how the US treats abortion and assisted reproduction as two totally different areas of medicine and law, despite both dealing with pregnancy and involving deeply personal and private choices. The legal ambiguity surrounding the status of embryos can be used to advance the fetal-personhood movement, which views the embryo's humanity as an objective fact. equally soluble.

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