Two years after Roe v. Wade was overturned, Georgia lawmakers turn focus to IVF

Views of an ultrasound examination room at Atlanta Morning Center in Dunwoody shown on Thursday, June 15, 2023. (Natrice Miller/

Views of an ultrasound examination room at Atlanta Morning Center in Dunwoody shown on Thursday, June 15, 2023. (Natrice Miller/

On the two-year anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court decision that ruled there was no constitutional right to an abortion, Georgia lawmakers on both sides of the partisan aisle said Monday they want to protect the in vitro fertilization process that some say the 2022 ruling may have put in jeopardy.

Lawmakers signaled they would like to take steps to protect the fertility procedure that tens of thousands of people across the country use to start a family, something state Sen. Elena Parent told the “Politically Georgia” team on Monday was a priority for Democrats.

“I filed legislation (in March) to preserve the rights to IVF, as well as a separate bill to preserve the right to contraception here in Georgia,” the Atlanta Democrat said. “Neither of them got a hearing and they were sort of poo-pooed as scare tactic bills by my Republican colleagues. I don’t think that Georgia women and families see it that way to be honest with you.”

An Alabama Supreme Court opinion earlier this year sent the IVF industry into confusion when it ruled that embryos created using the process were “extrauterine children,” granting embryos the same rights as any other child in that state.

According to that decision, if embryos are destroyed, it would be considered the “wrongful death of a minor.” Alabama has since enacted a law that extends legal protections to fertility clinics if embryos are harmed.

Parent said she’s encouraged that some Republican lawmakers are now also seeking to preserve access to IVF, such as GOP House Speaker Jon Burns, who said earlier this month he planned to do just that in the next legislative session.

“As Speaker Burns put his statement out, several influential, very conservative social groups here that operate at the Georgia General Assembly immediately started pushing back on that statement,” Parent said. “And some of the conversations that I’m hearing are being had amongst Republicans in the Statehouse are concerning. And I really wonder if they will have the fortitude to push forward on ensuring this right for Georgia families.”

The IVF process includes fertilizing an egg that can either be placed directly in the uterus or be frozen for future use. Oftentimes, unused embryos are discarded, given to other people seeking children or donated to science.

State Sen. Ed Setzler, an Acworth Republican who sponsored Georgia’s 2019 abortion law, said the state needs to examine if the fertility industry really needs to create so many embryos that end up being discarded.

“I do think we need to divide the question and ask ourselves, ‘Is Big Fertility, do they see a profit motive in creating bunches of embryos, that many of which are discarded, (and) one or two is implanted in mom?’” he said. “I think there’s ways we can look at the industry and say there are practices here that are an attack on human dignity. There’s ways to do IVF that is really supportive of life and we can all be proud of.”

A 2019 Georgia law that limits when abortions can be given also granted legal rights to embryos — often referred to as “personhood.” However, Georgia’s law specified that the embryo or fetus is an “unborn child” only when it is “carried in the womb.”

“We recognized the sort of messiness of the potential issues that children (produced) in an IVF setting created, and there wasn’t the consensus there that there was to protect children in the womb,” Setzler said. “And that’s what Georgia did, is we recognized the humanity, the legal personhood of the unborn child in Georgia for children in the womb.”

Georgia’s law bans most abortions once fetal cardiac activity is detected, typically about six weeks into a pregnancy and before many people know they are pregnant.

Abortion rights advocates and providers have challenged the 2019 law in state court. The Georgia Supreme Court in November overturned a lower court ruling that would have repealed the law, but sent it back to Fulton Superior Court for further consideration. Judge Robert McBurney has yet to issue further opinions on the law.

Tuesday on “Politically Georgia”: We’ll talk the result of recent AJC polling. Also, former Republican Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan joins to talk debates and the CEO of the Atlanta Track Club will update us on the Peachtree Road Race.

Politically Georgia producer Natalie Mendenhall contributed to this article.