Alabama’s IVF ruling still making waves

The host

Julie Rovner KFF Health News @jrovner

Julie Rovner is chief Washington correspondent and host of KFF Health News’ weekly health policy news podcast, “What the Health?” A noted expert on health policy issues, Julie is the author of the critically praised reference book “Health Care Politics and Policy A to Z,” now in its third edition.

Reverberations from the Alabama Supreme Court’s first-in-the-nation ruling that embryos are legally children continued this week, both in the states and in Washington. As Alabama lawmakers scrambled to find a way to protect in vitro fertilization services without directly denying the “personhood” of embryos, lawmakers in Florida postponed a vote on the state’s own “personhood” law. And in Washington, Republicans worked to find a way to satisfy two factions of their base: those who support IVF and those who believe embryos deserve full legal rights.

Meanwhile, Congress may finally be nearing a funding deal for the fiscal year that began Oct. 1. And while a few bipartisan health bills may catch a ride on the overall spending bill, several other priorities, including an overhaul of the pharmacy benefit manager industry, failed to make the cut.

This week’s panelists are Julie Rovner of KFF Health News, Rachel Cohrs of Stat, Riley Griffin of Bloomberg News, and Joanne Kenen of Johns Hopkins University’s schools of nursing and public health and Politico Magazine.


Among the takeaways from this week’s episode:

Lawmakers are readying short-term deals to keep the government funded and running for at least a few more weeks, though some health priorities like preparing for a future pandemic and keeping down prescription drug prices may not make the cut.
After the Alabama Supreme Court’s decision that frozen embryos are people, Republicans find themselves divided over the future of IVF. The emotionally charged debate over the procedure — which many conservatives, including former Vice President Mike Pence, believe should remain available — is causing turmoil for the party. And Democrats will no doubt keep reminding voters about it, highlighting the repercussions of the conservative push into reproductive health care.
A significant number of physicians in Idaho are leaving the state or the field of reproductive care entirely because of its strict abortion ban. With many hospitals struggling with the cost of labor and delivery services, the ban is only making it harder for women in some areas to get care before, during, and after childbirth — whether they need abortion care or not.
A major cyberattack targeting the personal information of patients enrolled in a health plan owned by UnitedHealth Group is drawing attention to the heightened risks of consolidation in health care. Meanwhile, the Justice Department is separately investigating UnitedHealth for possible antitrust violations.
“This Week in Health misinformation”: Panelist Joanne Kenen explains how efforts to prevent wrong information about a new vaccine for RSV have been less than successful.

Also this week, Rovner interviews Greer Donley, an associate professor at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law, about how a 150-year-old anti-vice law that’s still on the books could be used to ban abortion nationwide.

Plus, for “extra credit” the panelists suggest health policy stories they read this week that they think you should read, too:

Julie Rovner: ProPublica’s “Their States Banned Abortion. Doctors Now Say They Can’t Give Women Potential Lifesaving Care,” by Kavitha Surana.

Rachel Cohrs: The New York Times’ “$1 Billion Donation Will Provide Free Tuition at a Bronx Medical School,” by Joseph Goldstein.

Joanne Kenen: Axios’ “An Unexpected Finding Suggests Full Moons May Actually Be Tough on Hospitals,” by Tina Reed.

Riley Griffin: Bloomberg News’ “US Seeks to Limit China’s Access to Americans’ Personal Data,” by Riley Griffin and Mackenzie Hawkins.

Also mentioned on this week’s podcast:


Francis Ying Audio producer
Emmarie Huetteman Editor

This article was reprinted from, a national newsroom that produces in-depth journalism about health issues and is one of the core operating programs at KFF – the independent source for health policy research, polling, and journalism.

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