Breaking News: Major Embryo Shipping Company Halts Business in Alabama

Cryoport, a major embryo shipping company, said on Friday that it was “pausing” its business in Alabama as it evaluated the state’s Supreme Court decision that declared frozen embryos created through in vitro fertilization to be children.

“Until the company has further clarity on the decision and what it means for Cryoport, clinics and intended parents, it is pausing all activity in Alabama until further notice,” read an email received by an Alabama fertility clinic and shared with The New York Times.

The email said that Cryoport would “not be able to assist” with a scheduled shipment, and instead would offer a refund.

The Alabama court’s ruling has already significantly limited fertility treatment for patients in that state. Three clinics have paused care as they evaluate what the ruling means for their patients and their own legal liability. The case involved several couples whose frozen embryos were accidentally destroyed at a clinic in Mobile. It found that clinics could be held liable for wrongful death claims, bringing new gravity to accidents that are not uncommon in fertility treatment.

Cryoport’s decision will make it more difficult for current I.V.F. patients to move embryos out of state to continue treatments.

Embryo shipping is common in modern fertility treatment, as patients sometimes move and need to switch clinics or move embryos they do not plan to use soon to a long-term storage facility.

Other companies also ship embryos, and one announced on Friday that it will continue to work in Alabama. IVF CRYO, which advertises that it has shipped over 1 million reproductive health specimens, said on its website that it would still ship embryos to and from that state “regardless of the increased legal complexity and risk that our business now take on.”

Other embryo shipping companies did not immediately respond to the requests for comment.

Cryoport also did reply to a request for comment. On its website, it describes itself as the “most trusted provider” of temperature-controlled shipping and advertises having shipped more than 600,000 packages during more than 10 years of working in the in vitro fertilization business. In 2022, it generated nearly $10 million in revenue from its work in reproductive health.

The court ruling and the rapid-fire reaction have been excruciating for reproductive health providers in the state as well as patients.

“Those conversations have been some of the hardest of my career,” said Dr. Mamie McLean, a reproductive endocrinologist at Alabama Fertility Center, which halted treatment earlier this week. “These are patients with whom I’ve made decisions on plans of care, and families who will not be having another child because of this ruling.”

While her clinic is not currently recommending that patients move their frozen embryos out of state, she said that it had fielded many calls from patients inquiring about the option.

“Not only can they not have treatment in Alabama, now they can’t have treatment elsewhere. They’re trapped,” Dr. McLean said. “It means this decision has implications outside my state walls.”

Barbara Collura, president of the infertility advocacy group Resolve, said that Cryoport’s decision was upsetting but not unexpected.

“It’s an astounding turn of events, but I’m not surprised at all when you’re talking about the shipment of embryos,” she said. “If I ran one of those companies, I would do the same. It’s too risky right now.”

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