Daily Skimm·

After Alabama’s top court ruled frozen embryos are children, many have questions about the future of IVF.

top story

Embryos being fertilized in a lab


The Story

After Alabama’s top court ruled frozen embryos are children, many have questions about the future of IVF.

Catch me up.

Last week, the Alabama Supreme Court ruled fertilized, un-implanted embryos created via in vitro fertilization (IVF) are children under state law — referring to the type of facility where embryos are stored as a “cryogenic nursery.” The first-of-its-kind decision stemmed from a wrongful death lawsuit filed by three couples whose embryos were accidentally destroyed. The ruling doesn’t make IVF illegal, but there are rising concerns about its impact on the fertility treatment.

How does IVF typically work?

IVF involves extracting multiple eggs from a woman and fertilizing them with sperm in a lab. An IVF cycle usually produces more than one embryo. According to the CDC, about 4 million babies born each year in the US are conceived via IVF. There were 407 live births via IVF and “other related procedures” in Alabama in 2021. A single IVF cycle can cost between $15,000 and $30,000.

What happens to the embryos that aren't used?

The ones that aren’t immediately implanted into a patient’s uterus to create a pregnancy usually get frozen for possible future use. The HHS estimated there were at least 600,000 frozen embryos being stored in the US in 2020. Embryos can be frozen for a decade or more. It’s not uncommon for them to be discarded, if there’s a genetic abnormality or patients decide not to use them.

How does the ruling change that?

Under the ruling, those who destroy embryos could be held liable for wrongful death, since the embryos are now legally considered children. It’s not clear if those who undergo IVF will have to store their embryos indefinitely (and if so, where and at what cost). It’s also unclear who bears the responsibility: clinics or patients.

What's the response been?

Yesterday, the University of Alabama at Birmingham health system confirmed it has paused all IVF treatments while it evaluates the court’s decision. Many in the field say fertility clinics could close in Alabama, as doctors worry about risking civil or criminal charges. Others say the ruling could further increase the cost of IVF and serve as a framework for other states to follow Alabama. The anti-abortion group Live Action said an embryo “deserves and is guaranteed legal protection.”


After SCOTUS overturned Roe v. Wade, many abortion rights advocates worried IVF would be restricted next. Now, the ruling in Alabama is already changing access to the fertility treatment for people who want to have children and view IVF as their best option.

and also...this

Where people are looking for answers…

Oklahoma. The death of a 16-year-old, whose family says identified as nonbinary, has LGBTQIA+ advocates outraged and putting a spotlight on Oklahoma’s anti-trans policies. Earlier this month, Nex Benedict, who used they and them pronouns, died one day after being involved in a fight in a high school girls' bathroom. It's unclear if the fight was related to bullying. Benedict's family says they were badly beaten and hit their head on the floor. An Oklahoma LGBTQIA+ advocacy group said what happened to Benedict is “absolutely related to the rhetoric and policies that are commonplace at the Oklahoma Legislature.” Police say Benedict didn't die as a result of trauma from the fight but that their death remains under investigation.

What researchers are talking about…

Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS). For the first time, a new study is providing clues as to what may be causing the condition, which affects an estimated 3.3 million people in the US and is more likely to affect women. Many CFS patients have found their symptoms, including sleep problems and issues with memory, are often dismissed or misdiagnosed. Now, the new study published yesterday has found that CFS might begin when some kind of infection alters brain function, specifically the part that decides how much effort to exert. The findings still need to be confirmed in a larger group. Still, scientists say this research is an important step toward uncovering what’s causing the exhaustion and could lead to potential treatments.

What might be sizing up to its hype…

Nvidia. Yesterday, the California-based AI chipmaker reported more than $22.1 billion in sales during the fourth quarter of 2023. Nvidia — the third-most valuable company on Wall Street, behind Microsoft and Apple — has been around since the early ‘90s. But tech’s latest obsession with artificial intelligence has set the stage for Nvidia to rise to the top. With a market capitalization of more than $1.2 trillion, Nvidia takes up nearly all of the AI chipmaking market in the US. Now, Nvidia says the AI boom is just getting its start and that "demand is surging worldwide across companies, industries and nations.”

What could be coming back...

Pandas. Yesterday, media outlets reported China has plans to send a pair of pandas to the San Diego Zoo by the end of summer. The US and China have engaged in panda diplomacy since the '70s. That appeared to come to an end last year when the US had to send back the pandas it had on loan. Now, this could be a bamboo branch between the two countries.

Who yeehawd her way into history, again…


Why Billie Eilish fans might be feeling happier than ever…

Her album update.

Who’s back but in live action…

Aang and the rest of the gang.

theskimm: here's what's next

theSkimm helps you tackle your to-do lists, whether you're refinancing your loans or choosing a daycare for the first time. We talk to experts and real women to empower you to make decisions faster and with more confidence. Check out our guides to get started.

PS: Your feedback makes a big impact. Let us know what you like, what could be improved, and most importantly, if we helped you get sh*t done. Share your thoughts.

Live Smarter

Sign up for the Daily Skimm email newsletter. Delivered to your inbox every morning and prepares you for your day in minutes.