Causes & Treatment

Cryo shipping updates – the questions we’re asking about embryo transportation post-Alabama IVF ruling, with ARKCryo

Team ARKCryo  |   8 Apr 2024


If you’ve got even just one foot in the fertility world, you’ll know that the Alabama Supreme Court’s ruling on 16th February 2024 that granted ‘personhood’ to frozen embryos sent shockwaves through the community – and unsurprisingly so.

The decision has felt intensely personal, for so many of us. 

Almost two months later, at the time of writing, the knock-on effects are still being felt.

Opening the door to doctors, embryologists and IVF couriers being held criminally liable for the damage or destruction of embryos, numerous clinics across Alabama have suspended IVF treatments and procedures, and the state’s embryo shipping provider was only able to resume its service again in March, after stopping operations within state borders.

Both the American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM) and the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology (ESHRE) have strongly criticized the decision.

Cryo shipping updates USA – the Q&A

When it comes to wider implications for cryo shipping and moving frozen embryos, the situation is peppered with question marks and is still developing.

We rounded up your questions, and picked up with world-leading cryo shipping provider ARKCryo to dive into what’s going on right now from an embryo transportation perspective, plus cryo shipping updates, two months on.

Over to the ARKCryo team for the Q&A.

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Pre-Alabama IVF ruling, what laws have governed cryo shipping in the US?

Before the Alabama ruling, cryo shipping in the US operated within established legal frameworks and industry standards. Laws and practices governing the storage and transportation of frozen embryos varied by state but generally prioritized the autonomy and rights of individuals undergoing IVF treatment. 

The landmark Supreme Court decision in Roe v. Wade (1973) established the legal framework for reproductive rights in the United States, including the right to privacy in reproductive health. These decisions provided a foundation for the development of regulations governing assisted reproductive technologies, including cryo shipping. 

However, the recent overturning of Roe v. Wade has created a shifting legal landscape, introducing uncertainties that could impact cryo shipping practices and the reproductive rights of individuals seeking fertility treatments.

Why is the Alabama IVF ruling so potentially significant from a cryo shipping perspective?

The Alabama IVF ruling has raised questions about the legal status of embryos, potentially affecting their transportation across state lines. 

This legal ambiguity may disrupt cryo shipping processes, leading to delays or halts in transporting embryos, as evidenced by recent pauses in shipments from Alabama. 

Cryo shipping companies now face the challenge of navigating conflicting legal interpretations and ensuring the lawful transport of embryos while safeguarding the rights of all parties involved. 

As President Biden aptly stated, “The disregard for women’s ability to make these decisions for themselves and their families is outrageous and unacceptable.” 

This sentiment sheds light on the broader societal implications of restrictions on reproductive rights and access to fertility treatments, highlighting the urgent need for advocacy and legislative action to protect healthcare rights.

Does the decision present any new potential risks for embryo transportation? 

Uncertainty regarding the legal status of embryos could expose shipping companies to liability risks and necessitate additional compliance measures to mitigate potential legal conflicts. 

Peter Hura, CEO at ARKCryo, underscores the commitment to the company’s mission, stating, “Of course, as a transportation company, we have provided transportation services to clinics and patients in Alabama. And since our mission is to help couples achieve their dream outcome on the path to parenthood, we cannot refuse to transport biological material from Alabama despite the risks that exist in connection with this decision.” 

He further acknowledges, “Since this happened unexpectedly and shockingly for everyone, it is difficult to predict how this will affect the state and the country as a whole. However, we remain in touch with our clinics and patients and are ready to respond to any changes.

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What updates to cryo shipping practices might be necessary?

Wider implementation of similar rulings would require cryo shipping updates worldwide for companies to ensure that their practices comply with evolving legal standards.

This may involve: 

  • Enhanced documentation
  • Stricter adherence to regulatory guidelines
  • Increased transparency throughout the shipping process 
  • Advanced tracking measures to maintain integrity

Collaboration with legal experts and industry stakeholders may also become essential to stay abreast of regulatory changes and proactively address emerging challenges in cryo shipping practices. 

These proactive measures can help ensure the continued safety, legality, and efficiency of embryo transportation on a broader scale.

What about updates for medical couriers?

ARKCryo’s medical and IVF couriers are exceptionally professional, well−trained, and equipped with state−of−the−art technology to handle the sensitive transportation of biological materials, including embryos. 

While our current standards ensure the safe and secure transport of such delicate cargo, the evolving legal landscape may necessitate additional training and enhanced tracking capabilities to maintain our high standards of service excellence. 

We are committed to providing our medical couriers with the necessary resources and support to adapt to any changes and uphold the highest standards of safety and professionalism in cryo shipping!

Might the cost of cryo shipping change? 

The Alabama IVF ruling introduces legal uncertainties that could potentially increase the cost and pricing of cryo shipping services. 

This is because cryo shipping companies may need to allocate additional resources towards compliance measures, to navigate the evolving regulatory landscape. 

We understand that this is a difficult reality, particularly for patients where being able to move their biomaterials might represent their last chance at building their family – with embryos created years ago, or eggs or sperm frozen prior to chemotherapy or organ removal, for example.

These added expenses could be passed on to patients through adjustments in pricing structures, reflecting the heightened complexity and risk associated with transporting embryos post−ruling.

What could change when it comes to embryo storage and cryopreservation?

The possibility of legal disputes or changes in reproductive rights could prompt some individuals to opt for ongoing cryopreservation of their embryos – until greater clarity is achieved. 

This could lead to increased demand for storage facilities and services, potentially impacting the availability and cost of cryopreservation options for patients. 

The decision to keep embryos frozen may entail additional logistical considerations and financial commitments, like periodic storage fees and maintenance costs, which individuals must factor into their reproductive planning and decision−making processes.

Are there any other implications, from a cryo shipping perspective? 

The ruling may trigger broader implications for cryo shipping beyond immediate legal challenges. 

Increased scrutiny and public attention on reproductive rights issues could lead to heightened regulatory oversight of cryoshipping practices at the state and federal levels, possibly entailing:

  • Stricter licensing requirements
  • More standardized protocols
  • Periodic inspections to ensure compliance with evolving legal standards 

While these regulatory measures aim to enhance safety and transparency within the industry, they may also impose additional administrative burdens and operational costs on cryoshipping companies.

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How is ARKCryo continuing to support people who are considering moving their frozen embryos? 

ARKCryo remains steadfast in supporting individuals considering the transfer of frozen embryos to new clinics, whether within the USA or globally. 

We stand by our partner clinics and patients, providing unwavering assistance and guidance. Our commitment to excellence drives us to continually evolve our practices, ensuring seamless and reliable transportation of biological material. 

Rest assured, ARKCryo is dedicated to empowering individuals on their journey to parenthood, and we will continue to work tirelessly to facilitate their dreams with compassion and professionalism.

Got more questions?

Connect with ARKCryo to learn more about how their services can support you, right now, and to keep on top of any cryo shipping updates as they come. 

Their team has 10 years of experience in overseeing all aspects of the cryo shipping process, from the specifics of safe frozen embryo transportation worldwide, to dealing with paperwork and customs clearance.

If you’d like to hear more from ARKCryo, you can check out our library of resources on all things cryo shipping below:

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