The Alabama IVF Ruling Weaponizes Faith to Harm Families

The Alabama Supreme Court’s decision to consider frozen embryos as human life warns of the impact of theocratic decision-making.

IVF works by using a combination of medicines and surgical procedures to help sperm fertilize an egg. (Jens Kalaene / Getty Images)

Reshma is a Hindu woman, Paul is a Christian man. For both of us, faith has taught us to put family at the center of our lives. And both of our families, in part, happened to be made possible by IVF.

That’s why the recent Alabama Supreme Court decision, that frozen embryos outside the womb constitute human life, outraged us. We’re seeing faith weaponized to harm families, by a hypocritical right-wing faction that claims to stand for “family values.” And we fear the potential harm has only just begun.

The consequences of the Alabama ruling are already devastating. The state’s largest hospital, the University of Alabama at Birmingham, has already suspended their IVF treatments. Countless patients may have to start the painful process over again, or completely rethink their family planning process. Other clinics may soon follow suit—and current, or aspiring, infertility specialists may choose not to practice in the state.  

Then there’s the chilling effect that these rulings have across the country—both on clinics who fear legal jeopardy for providing treatment, and the parents and parent-hopefuls who fear similar consequences for seeking it. This could have far-reaching implications for the (already dismal) state of reproductive care in America.

The decision in Alabama is an extension of the disastrous decision taken by the Supreme Court in Dobbs v. Jackson last year to strike down the right of women to make decisions about their bodies. And just as we predicted, women are suffering because of it—some are even being forced to carry nonviable pregnancies to term.

Maddeningly, this is all being done in the name of faith. The Court ruling so clearly reflects a singular religious viewpoint held by the justices, with lines in the ruling stating that “God made every person in His image” and that to destroy a frozen embryo is to invite the “wrath of a holy God.” By imposing its narrow view of morality and religion on all Alabamians, the Court has taken a sledgehammer to the First Amendment, which guarantees every person’s freedom to believe as we choose.

Let’s be abundantly clear: We respect the right of each person to make a personal decision about their bodies, their embryos and their families. We acknowledge the real grief of the couples whose embryos were accidentally destroyed, and our hearts go out to them for the pain they have endured.

However, ruling that embryos are human life with legal rights is making a theological statement, rather than a legal or scientific one. We’re watching before our eyes a clear erosion of church and state. In case the judges in Alabama forgot, we live in a country that was intentionally founded to protect diverse religious practices and beliefs. By imposing their own religious beliefs on all Alabamans, the judges have violated our fundamental rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

By imposing its narrow view of morality and religion on all Alabamians, the Court has taken a sledgehammer to the First Amendment, which guarantees every person’s freedom to believe as we choose.

There is no sense in trying to reason or rationalize the process that makes people promote hateful, destructive, dangerous outcomes through law. That is why our job is to fight for policies that align with real family values. It’s why Reshma is fighting for paid family leave, affordable childcare and equal pay as the leader of Moms First—and it’s why Paul is fighting for a vibrant democracy where everyone’s civil rights are protected as the president of the Interfaith Alliance.

We don’t do this work despite our deep religious convictions, but because of it.

And how do we approach that battle in such a divided country? We unite around the simple things: fundamental beliefs in keeping our kids healthy, happy and safe—whether or not you have kids yourself. After all, as President Biden reminded his audience, “There is no such thing as someone else’s child.” 

For people like us, that means staying firmly rooted in our religious values so that we can protect children, not endanger them—and so that we can ensure people can start families in the first place. But for any American, with religious beliefs or a lack thereof, we all have a responsibility to our Constitution—and to prevent our beloved democracy from slipping into theocracy. 

We are so grateful for the gift that IVF has given us: nearly a decade of vacations, birthday parties and holy days spent together with our two families. We must do everything in our power to ensure families like ours can continue to exist in this great country—and so that our great country can continue to exist at all. 

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About and

Reshma Saujani is the founder and CEO of Girls Who Code, an international nonprofit organization working to close the gender gap in technology while teaching girls confidence and bravery through coding, and the founder of the Marshall Plan for Moms movement.
The Rev. Paul Brandeis Raushenbush is president and CEO of Interfaith Alliance. An ordained Baptist minister, Raushenbush is a longtime leader in the interfaith movement working to protect an inclusive vision of religious freedom for people of all faiths and none.