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A bill to provide legal protections for fertility treatment providers heads to the House Floor

Delaware Legislative Hall in Dover.
Roman Battaglia
Delaware Public Media
Delaware Legislative Hall in Dover.

The Delaware House Judiciary Committee releases a bill to provide legal protections for fertility treatment providers.

State Rep. Kendra Johnson's (D-Bear) legislation would ensure medical professionals cannot face legal challenges for providing fertility treatment, even if such services are deemed illegal in another state.

Her legislation comes after a February Alabama Supreme Court ruling declaring frozen embryos could be considered children, leaving many in vitro fertilizer (IVF) providers across the nation concerned.

The Alabama decision stemmed from three couples suing for wrongful death after their frozen embryos were destroyed in an accident at a fertility clinic.

This accident aside, providers explain discarding non viable embryos is commonplace in the practice, and many halted services after the ruling for fear they could face legal challenges.

Alabama’s legislature has since passed a bill granting criminal immunity for IVF service providers and receivers, similar to Johnson’s proposed bill.

During the bill’s committee hearing, retired nurse and Republican State. Rep Valerie Jones Giltner (R-Georgetown) brought up concerns that the legislation could allow providers to destroy embryos without certain accountability measures and raised questions over parental control over their embryos.

“Why do we keep protecting practitioners? I just – I don’t understand, and I’m a practitioner. I don’t understand why we constantly, in different legislatures, are removing any, I guess, ability to hold them accountable," she says.

House Judiciary Committee Chair Krista Griffith (D-Fairfax) argues the bill solely allows fertility providers to operate without concerns of prosecution and says Jones Giltner’s concerns do not fall within the purview of this legislation.

“We have seen in other states, some practitioners are fearing proceeding with these procedures for fear of arrest or civil action. What this is saying is that Delaware will not do that," Griffith says.

The bill was ultimately sent to the House floor where it awaits a full vote, with two of the three Republican representatives present voting against its release.

Before residing in Dover, Delaware, Sarah Petrowich moved around the country with her family, spending eight years in Fairbanks, Alaska, 10 years in Carbondale, Illinois and four years in Indianapolis, Indiana. She graduated from the University of Missouri in 2023 with a dual degree in Journalism and Political Science.