The Oho Statehouse, Columbus, Ohio. (Photo by Graham Stokes)

The Ohio Statehouse, Columbus, Ohio. (Photo by Graham Stokes for the Ohio Capital Journal. Republish photo only with original story.)

BY:  Ohio Capital Journal

After an Alabama Supreme Court decision that ruled frozen embryos housed outside of a human body were still considered children, states across the country are debating the implications of such a decision.

Ohio legislative leaders are saying bills that would ban IVF are not being considered, but one lawmaker who has introduced a “personhood” bill in the past says it’s still “great policy” that’s being blocked by politics.

National groups have said the Alabama decision will have impacts on the work that embryologists do, with the Society of Reproductive Biologists and Technologists saying the state’s supreme court ruling “stands in stark contrast to scientific understanding and the experiences of individuals navigating fertility treatments.”

The concept of “fetal personhood” is not a new one for Ohio. Long before the Alabama decision threw into question the concept of in-vitro fertilization treatments in that state, legislators in the Buckeye state were considering a bill that would consider life’s beginning at conception, a theory conservatives and pro-life politicians have long pushed.

Ohio House Bill 704 was introduced in 2022 by state Rep. Gary Click, R-Vickery, who claimed “one class of people has erroneously been denied their constitutional rights: the unborn.”

“From the moment of fertilization, that zygote, embryo or whichever depersonalizing term you choose to use is not merely a potential human but rather (a) human with potential,” Click said in a statement announcing the legislation.

The bill died as the General Assembly’s two-year session ended, but the fact that the idea was broached is still being brought up by Democrats and pro-choice groups around the state.

Click himself didn’t rule out the idea of reintroducing his personhood legislation, saying in a Feb. 23 tweet that reintroducing it has “not been my plan at the moment.”

“But plans do change,” the tweet went on.


The legislator — who was also the creator of a successful bill that bans gender-affirming care for transgender minors, a controversial bill that succeeded with a veto-override in January — also told the Statehouse News Bureau in February that while he supported IVF if all embryos are used, he considered his personhood bill “great policy” blocked by politics.

Since Click’s bill was introduced (and subsequently foiled by time limits), however, 57% of Ohio voters passed November’s Issue 1, which not only enshrined abortion rights into the Ohio Constitution, but also listed “fertility treatment” as one of the rights Ohio individuals have to “make and carry out one’s own reproductive decisions,” according to the amendment.

IVF patients represented a group of people who spoke out in favor of Issue 1 as a protection against unnecessary regulation and uncertainty in the IVF process.

But Republican legislators in particular have not seen this development as the roadblock to reproductive rights legislation one might expect, as policymakers at the Statehouse have continued to push anti-abortion legislation and bills that target the rights now protected under the state constitution.

The state’s legal representatives are also still pushing against a lawsuit that seeks to eliminate a six-week abortion ban that became law in 2019 (and has been tied up in court ever since).

Still, Ohio’s legislative leaders have said the Alabama decision has yet to spur any policy in the state at this point.

 Left, Ohio House Speaker Jason Stephens. Right, Ohio Senate President Matt Huffman. (Photos by Graham Stokes for the Ohio Capital Journal. Republish only with original article.) 

House Speaker Jason Stephens, R-Kitts Hill, said the chamber is “monitoring any potential ramifications the Alabama decision may have in Ohio,” but also said, from his perspective, “IVF provides hope and is 100% pro-family.”

“We look forward to advancing our values and continuing our pro-life legislative agenda,” Stephens told the OCJ in a statement.

Senate President Matt Huffman said he has not heard of any legislation and there hasn’t been “any discussion by any member of my caucus or anybody else as far as in the state of Ohio as far as I know.”

“We seem to be in this national culture that if some court in Alabama or some other state says something that we all should be reacting to it,” Huffman said.

The senate leader acknowledged that “we have a constitutional amendment that affects some of this.”

“But you know, with other things going on right now, it’s just not a discussion that’s taking place,” he said.

A spokesperson for Gov. Mike DeWine said his office would “continue to monitor any bills in this policy area,” but they were not aware of any at the moment.

DeWine’s office did not respond to questions as to whether or not the governor supported the consideration of frozen embryos as children.

Megan Henry contributed to this story.


Susan Tebben

Susan Tebben is an award-winning journalist with a decade of experience covering Ohio news, including courts and crime, Appalachian social issues, government, education, diversity and culture. She has worked for The Newark Advocate, The Glasgow (KY) Daily Times, The Athens Messenger, and WOUB Public Media. She has also had work featured on National Public Radio.


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