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February 26, 2024 12:40 PM UTC

Republicans Caught in Dangerous IVF/Abortion Rights Quagmire

  • by: Colorado Pols

We wrote last week about the devastating opinion by the Alabama State Supreme Court ruling that frozen embryos had the same rights as actual people. That decision has created chaos for families who hope to conceive children through the process of in vitro fertilization (IVF) — which often uses frozen embryos for this very purpose.

From a political perspective, the Alabama ruling is a YUGE problem for Republicans who are desperate to talk about anything other than abortion rights in 2024. The overturning of Roe v. Wade in June 2022 has been devastating for Republicans at the ballot; voters in the reddest of states have consistently sided in favor of protecting abortion rights and punishing Republican candidates who even think about supporting a national abortion ban. While the Alabama IVF ruling isn’t explicitly about abortion, you don’t need a political science degree to understand that this is (not coincidentally) very similar to various “personhood” proposals from Republicans across the country (and here in Colorado) that seek to define a zygote as a human being in order to argue against abortions at any time.

The Alabama IVF decision is thus an electoral complication for Republicans on multiple fronts: 1) The ruling re-energizes the discussion on abortion rights, and 2) It creates a new anti-Republican voter base from the hundreds of thousands of Americans hoping to conceive a child through IVF (which accounts for about 2% of all births nationwide in a given year). According to the National Fertility Association, 1-in-6 Americans struggle with infertility at some point in their lives — including former Republican Vice President Mike Pence, who has openly discussed his wife’s many experiences with IVF treatments.

As POLITICO explained last week:

If Republicans didn’t realize it when the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, they sure understand now: The long tail of the Dobbs ruling just keeps whipping Republicans with thorny political consequences.

The GOP’s latest nightmare scenario comes from Alabama, where the state’s high court found on Friday that the destruction of embryos constituted a crime under the state’s “wrongful death of a minor” law. That has led the eighth-largest hospital in the nation to stop in vitro fertilization procedures indefinitely, with other health care providers likely to follow.

Already, Republicans are being forced to answer for a policy that is not only out of step with public opinion on IVF but has very personal and potentially devastating consequences for the one in six Americans who struggle with fertility issues. The decision not only risks alienating swing voters but highlights how the consequences of Dobbs continue to crush Republicans up and down the ballot. [Pols emphasis]

“It certainly intersects badly with general election politics for Republicans,” Stan Barnes, a political consultant and former GOP Arizona state senator told our colleague Alice Miranda Ollstein. “When a state, any state, takes an aggressive action on this particular topic, people are once again made aware of it and many think: ‘Maybe I can’t support a Republican in the general election.’”

Via The Washington Post (2/25/24)

Republicans are so worried, in fact, that the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC) issued a memo to its Republican candidates nationwide telling them to STFU about IVF. As Michael C. Bender explains for The New York Times, “Washington Republicans are urging their Senate candidates to support in vitro fertilization treatments after the Alabama Supreme Court ruled a week ago that frozen embryos should be considered children.”

The Alabama court ruling has put a halt to the activities of many IVF clinics in that state and is already starting to scare national providers who worry about the implications of being charged with manslaughter or even murder should frozen embryos be destroyed.

Regardless of whether Republican candidates voice support for IVF treatments, the Alabama ruling also brings up new questions related to abortion rights in general — and particularly surrounding personhood legislation. As Mariana Alfaro reports for The Washington Post:

Prominent congressional Republicans are coming out in support of in vitro fertilization days after the Alabama state Supreme Court ruled that frozen embryos are people and therefore that someone can be held liable for destroying them.

But many of the same Republicans who are saying Americans should have access to IVF have co-sponsored legislation that employs an argument similar to the one the Alabama Supreme Court used in its ruling. [Pols emphasis]

The congressional proposal, known as the Life at Conception Act, defines a “human being” to “include each member of the species homo sapiens at all stages of life, including the moment of fertilization or cloning, or other moment at which an individual member of the human species comes into being.” The bill would also provide equal protection under the 14th Amendment “for the right to life of each born and preborn human person.”

The “Life at Conception Act” (HR-431) has 125 Republican sponsors in the House of Representatives — including all three of Colorado’s Republican Members of Congress. Reps. Lauren Boebert, Ken Buck, and Doug Lamborn are all full supporters of a federal personhood bill that is a kissing cousin of the Alabama IVF ruling. As the Post explains, that includes the current House Speaker:

The legislation is co-sponsored by 125 Republicans in the House, including Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.), who, in the wake of the Alabama ruling, said in a statement to The Washington Post that he supports efforts to allow IVF treatments because he believes “the life of every single child has inestimable dignity and value.”

A spokesman for Johnson did not comment on the speaker’s support for the Life at Conception Act, or on whether the speaker would support a congressional effort to protect IVF procedures federally.

In November, Johnson told Fox News that he does not oppose access to fertility treatments.

You can’t really advocate in favor of IVF treatments in the wake of the Alabama ruling AND support personhood legislation. Those are the sort of mental gymnastics required by someone who, say, believes dinosaurs rode along on Noah’s Ark.

This is a serious political problem that Republicans don’t have the slightest idea how to solve in 2024. Voters may well show them the way.


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