Weeks of Stress, Confusion for I.V.F. Patients in Alabama

Leelee Ray and her husband, Austin, have been trying to have a baby for six years, through insemination procedures, two egg retrievals, four embryo transfers, an ectopic pregnancy that could have been deadly and eight miscarriages.

With four frozen embryos remaining in storage at a fertility clinic, the Rays, who live in Huntsville, Ala., decided to change course. In February, they turned to an agency in Colorado, where laws about gestational carriers are more forgiving than in Alabama, to find a woman to carry their baby.

It all came to a halt just days later, when the Alabama Supreme Court ruled that frozen embryos should be considered “extrauterine children” under state law and several fertility clinics in the state suspended I.V.F. treatments.

“When I called my clinic to ask how quickly I could get my embryos out of the state, they told me everything was paused, including shipping embryos,” Ms. Ray, 35, said.

Hoping to quell a national furor over the court’s decision, Gov. Kay Ivey, a Republican, signed legislation on Wednesday night shielding I.V.F. clinics against civil actions and criminal prosecutions related to the handling of embryos.

But for would-be parents like the Rays, considerable damage had already been done.

The ruling disrupted fertility treatments that are expensive, physically and emotionally taxing, and extremely time-sensitive, guzzling precious resources that many couples did not have. Their experiences may soon be repeated in other states as anti-abortion forces push to redefine the beginning of life.

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