‘My life gives people hope’: America’s first IVF baby calls for procedure to be protected after Alabama ruling, saying she ‘wouldn’t be here without it’

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  • Elizabeth Carr, 42, was the first American baby to be born via IVF
  • She is now fighting to protect access to the controversial procedure 
  • READ MORE: Second Alabama clinic stops IVF following Alabama ruling
  • HAVE YOU BEEN AFFECTED BY ALABAMA’S IVF RULING? EMAIL HEALTH@DAILYMAIL.COM 

America’s first IVF baby is fighting to protect the procedure amid a Supreme Court decision in Alabama that has declared frozen embryos to be children. 

Elizabeth Carr, 42, was born via in vitro fertilization (IVF) in Virginia on December 28, 1981, after doctors had told her mother, Judith, that she wouldn’t be able to have biological children. 

Ms Carr’s birth attracted so much attention that armed guards stood outside of Judith’s hospital room. When she became pregnant naturally with her now 13-year-old son in 2010, doctors closely monitored her pregnancy.

Now, more than 40 years after her historic birth, Ms Carr is urging lawmakers to pull back on the Alabama Supreme Court’s ruling last month that embryos should be considered children.

The move has led two major clinics in the state to halt the procedure over fears that doctors could be prosecuted for destroying embryos over ‘wrongful death.’ 

Elizabeth Carr, 42, was the first American born via IVF after doctors told her mother that she couldn’t have biological children

Ms Carr's birth led to nationwide fanfare. Now, she is working to protect IVF access in the midst of Alabama's recent Supreme Court ruling, which considered embryos chidren. Pictured here is Ms Carr as a child at a news conference in the 1980s

Ms Carr’s birth led to nationwide fanfare. Now, she is working to protect IVF access in the midst of Alabama’s recent Supreme Court ruling, which considered embryos chidren. Pictured here is Ms Carr as a child at a news conference in the 1980s

‘My life gives people hope,’ Ms Carr told the Wall Street Journal. ‘If my mother had not been told by her doctor about IVF, I would not be here.’ 

Senator Tim Kaine, a democrat from Virginia, also invited her to speak at President Joe Biden’s State of the Union Address Thursday. Kaine stated that federal legislation backing IVF access would ‘enable the Elizabeth Carrs of the world to continue to be born.’ 

IVF is a process in which eggs retrieved from the woman’s ovaries are fertilized outside of the womb and implanted in the woman’s uterus. Doctors typically fertilize as many healthy eggs as possible to give the woman the best chance of having a baby; unused fertilized eggs are frozen and stored.

Eventually, the unused embryos are discarded, though when depends on the clinic and what the patient needs.

The unprecedented ruling by Alabama’s Supreme Court is the first to endow full human rights to an organism so soon after fertilization and opens the door to similar rulings in other states. 

The ruling could open the door to wrongful death lawsuits in all cases where embryos do not survive being thawed and transferred to the uterus, potentially sending doctors in the state fleeing elsewhere to practice medicine.

IVF advocates have warned for years that restrictions on IVF were a possible repercussion of the 2022 Supreme Court decision to overturn Roe v. Wade.

Barbara Collura, CEO of Resolve: The National Infertility Association, said: ‘This is exactly what we have been fearful of and worried about where it was heading.

‘We are extremely concerned that this is now going to happen in other states.’

Ms Collura added that the suit did not declare IVF illegal, ‘But it did say the embryos that are handled in an IVF process are children. Are people. And that begs the question: Can we freeze a human? And if we freeze a human, who is liable for that?’

The ruling is limited to Alabama, but reproductive rights advocates have warned of a potential domino effect elsewhere.

Ms Carr's birth attracted so much fanfare that armed guards stood outside of Judith's hospital room. When she became pregnant naturally with her now 13-year-old son in 2010 (pictured here), doctors closely monitored her pregnancy.

Ms Carr’s birth attracted so much fanfare that armed guards stood outside of Judith’s hospital room. When she became pregnant naturally with her now 13-year-old son in 2010 (pictured here), doctors closely monitored her pregnancy.

The highlighted states have laws on the books stipulating that life begins at the moment of fertilization. In Louisiana, the intentional disposal or destruction of a human embryo is illegal

The highlighted states have laws on the books stipulating that life begins at the moment of fertilization. In Louisiana, the intentional disposal or destruction of a human embryo is illegal

Kelly Baden, Vice President for Public Policy at the abortion rights group Guttmacher Institute, told DailyMail.com: ‘This radical concept of personhood has long been championed by the anti-abortion movement and is now one step closer to becoming reality.

‘The potential impacts are vast—your ability to build a family, continue a healthy pregnancy, or choose abortion are all connected; judicial and legislative attacks on one impact all.’

Which state will come next remains to be seen. A handful of others, including Louisiana, Arkansas, Kentucky, and Missouri, have laws on the books that say human life begins at the moment of fertilization and give those embryos the same rights as a person. 

In Louisiana, it is illegal to dispose of embryos, which are called ‘juridical persons.’ In Kansas, lawmakers introduced a bill last year that would establish a new crime of ‘unlawful destruction of a fertilized embryo.’

An estimated 1.5 million embryos currently sit in cryogenic nurseries across the US.

With possible consequences for discarding the unused embryos, doctors may be barred from fertilizing eggs that won’t end up being implanted. This winnows down a woman’s chances of getting pregnant.

Ms Carr's mother, Judith, looks at her daughter after she was born on December 28, 1981

Ms Carr’s mother, Judith, looks at her daughter after she was born on December 28, 1981

The University of Alabama at Birmingham's hospital system became the first in the state to pause its IVF treatments following a ruling last week that determined frozen embryos are viewed under the law as children

The University of Alabama at Birmingham’s hospital system became the first in the state to pause its IVF treatments following a ruling last week that determined frozen embryos are viewed under the law as children

Doctors typically fertilize as many eggs as they can retrieve during a cycle of IVF but, under possible civil penalty, may only feel comfortable fertilizing a couple of eggs, forcing women to undergo several rounds of costly egg retrievals to achieve the same pregnancy rate that they were trying to achieve with one retrieval.

Providers may also be forced to leave the state for fear of being sued or because of the high cost of storing excess embryos. IVF patients also have to pay fees to store embryos, in amounts ranging from $350 to $1,000 per year.

Ms Carr leads public relations and patient advocacy at Genomic Prediction, which sells genetics tests to screen embryos for certain health conditions. 

The company also sells a test to predict how likely a future child is to develop conditions like heart disease, schizophrenia, cancer, and diabetes. 

Alabama doctors have been fielding calls from nervous patients like Gabby Goidel, 26, who chose to try in vitro fertilization after several miscarriages due to unexplained genetic infertility.

She opted for IVF because the process allows doctors to test embryos for  abnormalities and Ms Goidel believes it wouldn’t be fair on her or a child to carry an unviable fetus that could miscarry or be born with severe health issues.

Ms Goidel said she was filled with dread when she heard the news.

She told NBC News: ‘Most of our embryos are not going to be genetically normal.

‘My hope would be that we could let those embryos naturally pass, but now it’s, “Do we have to save them?” I don’t necessarily want to implant a child that I know is going to miscarry.’

Women in red states have also begun moving their frozen embryos out of state over the ruling. 

Amanda Zurawski, 36 of Texas, has chosen to move her frozen embryos out of the state for fear lawmakers could follow Alabama’s lead and block her from starting a family on her terms.

Ms Zurawski said the process of IVF is anxiety-inducing enough on its own, but the ruling and subsequent closure of some clinics in Alabama have added ‘another layer of fear and anxiety.’

Zurawski is one of the lead plaintiffs in a lawsuit alleging that Texas’ abortion ban endangered her life when, at 18 weeks pregnant in 2022, she went into septic shock and nearly died. 

Doctors refused to perform an abortion because the fetus still had a heartbeat. In Texas, all abortions are banned with the exception of instances to save the life of the mother. 

Alabama-native Gabby Goidel opted for IVF because of an unexplained genetic fertility problem. But she is now concerned about the impact that the Alabama ruling will have on her chances of getting pregnant

Alabama-native Gabby Goidel opted for IVF because of an unexplained genetic fertility problem. But she is now concerned about the impact that the Alabama ruling will have on her chances of getting pregnant

Amanda Zurawski, 36 of Texas [pictured right with her husband] has chosen to move her frozen embryos out of the state for fear that her state could follow Alabama ’s lead and block her from starting a family on her terms

Amanda Zurawski, 36 of Texas [pictured right with her husband] has chosen to move her frozen embryos out of the state for fear that her state could follow Alabama ’s lead and block her from starting a family on her terms

The experience led her to try IVF and hopefully have a baby via a surrogate after doctors told her she could not carry a baby to term. 

But the legal landscape in Texas, coupled with fear that followed Alabama’s court ruling, convinced her and her husband to look to other states to store the embryos.

Ms Zurawski, who spoke to NBC News, said: ‘It’s absolutely terrifying.

‘But it’s also so infuriating because the same people who support the bans that nearly killed me are also in the same camp who are now trying to make it harder for people like me to have a family.’

Ms Carr said that patients should be able to know all of their options about IVF and genetic tests and decide for themselves.  

‘How do I explain my life?’ she said.  

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