Florida lawmakers pause 'unborn child' bill in wake of Alabama ruling

February 26, 2024 9:55 PM EST

FILE PHOTO: Florida’s Capitol Complex in Tallahassee, Florida, February 20, 2018. REUTERS/Colin Hackley

By Brad Brooks

(Reuters) -Florida lawmakers have paused efforts to pass a bill that would have provided protections to an "unborn child," but which some worry could expose the state's in vitro fertilization (IVF) clinics to lawsuits like one that happened this month in Alabama.

Florida state Senator Erin Grall said in an emailed statement on Tuesday that she had requested her bill "be temporarily postponed at this time."

"Although I have worked diligently to respond to questions and concerns, I understand there is still work that needs to be done," Grall wrote. "It is important we get the policy right with an issue of this significance."

Grall's bill was unlikely to be taken up again before Florida's current legislative session is scheduled to end on March 8.

Republicans nationwide have been trying to contain the fallout from a recent Alabama Supreme Court ruling that allowed parents to sue for wrongful death of minor children, including embryos, based on that state's 2018 Sanctity of Life Amendment approved by voters that supports "the sanctity of unborn life and the rights of unborn children."

The ruling by Alabama's Supreme Court, whose nine justices are all elected Republicans, forced some IVF clinics to halt their operations, stoking anger among patients and those who called it another infringement on women's reproductive rights.

In 2022, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling that recognized the constitutional right to an abortion. That left it up to states to determine legality within their borders. Conservative states, such as Alabama, have since imposed near total bans on abortion procedures.

After that 2022 ruling, Democrats in the midterm elections were able to retain control of the U.S. Senate and limit their losses in the House of Representatives.

Now, Democrats hope the abortion issue will help President Joe Biden secure a second term and boost their prospects in Congress.

Republican presidential frontrunner Donald Trump, in a statement on Friday, called on the Alabama legislature to find an immediate solution to preserve availability of IVF treatments in the state.

"I strongly support the availability of IVF for couples who are trying to have a precious baby," the former president said in a post on Truth Social.

Sean Tipton, chief advocacy and policy officer for the American Society for Reproductive Medicine, which tracks legislation and lobbies against measures such as Alabama’s restrictions, said in an email the group has seen several bills in many states seeking protections for unborn children.

"Given the profound backlash to the Alabama decision I doubt there are many elected officials looking to be accused of stopping access to IVF," Tipton wrote.

(Reporting by Brad Brooks in Longmont, Colorado; Additional reporting by Tom Hals in Wilmington, Delaware; editing by Donna Bryson and Kim Coghill)

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