The GOP’s Fumbling Hypocrisy on IVF

The GOP’s Fumbling Hypocrisy on IVF

Don’t believe Lindsey Graham when he says Republicans are fine with IVF. They are decidedly not, but only a few will admit it.


Just as Republicans across the board have botched their response to the Supreme Court’s 2022 Dobbs decision striking down abortion rights, so have they stumbled ever since Alabama’s Supreme Court struck down the right to in-vitro fertilization there in February. The somewhat unexpected attack on a process through which an estimated 2.3 percent of American children are conceived has been tricky for the supposedly pro-life party.

I say “somewhat unexpected” because many of us knew their Dobbs victory was going to embolden far-right conservatives to widen their war on reproductive rights to include some forms of contraception as well as fertility treatments like IVF.

GOP leaders in Alabama and in Washington, D.C., have groped for a way to have it both ways, mouthing support for IVF, since it’s incredibly popular with American voters, while resisting legislation that would actually protect the practice.

House Speaker Mike Johnson may have sounded “stupid” talking about the matter earlier this month, but he spoke for many in his party as he tried to defend IVF—but refused judgment on whether the destruction of unused embryos in the practice amounted to murder. “We support the sanctity of life, of course, and we support IVF and full access to it,” he said. Johnson also said there’s no need for Congress to act, as it’s a matter for the states, but if he supports “full access” to IVF, why would he be OK with a state banning it? And if it is murder, as many of his colleagues believe, then why would he be OK with it remaining legal? The speaker has resisted such follow-up questions.

Interestingly, Wednesday saw several developments on the IVF politics front. At a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing, Jamie Heard of Alabama, who has struggled to conceive, talked of her despair after her Birmingham clinic halted IVF treatments. “Our hopes broke, hearing the news of our clinic pausing treatments,” Heard said. “My heart breaks as I hear and read comments such as our health conditions are nature’s way of telling us we shouldn’t have kids.”

But Senator Lindsay Graham insisted that Democrats are using the issue politically. “There is no effort by anybody that I know of in the Republican Party in Washington, D.C., to shut down fertility clinics,” Graham said. “Quite the opposite. We appreciate this as a formal way of bringing life into the world for couples who are having a very difficult time conceiving a child otherwise.”

“Shutting down fertility clinics” is quite the dodge there, since fertility clinics provide other services besides IVF, and indeed, they aren’t shutting down. And maybe Graham is unaware that his colleague, Mississippi Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith, blocked a bill protecting IVF because she claimed it was cover for protecting abortion. (I’m sure he’s aware.)

Meanwhile, on the same day that Democratic Representative Susan Wild was touting her so-called “bipartisan” House bill to protect IVF—indeed, it has two GOP cosponsors, New Yorkers Mike Lawler and Mark Molinaro, both from very purple districts—GOP Representative Matt Rosendale wrote a letter to Veterans Affairs Secretary Denis McDonough protesting the department’s plan to cover IVF costs for veterans and their families. “IVF is morally dubious and should not be subsidized by the American taxpayer,” Rosendale wrote. “A surplus of embryos will be created which are likely to result in abandoned, or cruelly discarded human life.”

Also on Wednesday, the Republican Study Committee released a federal budget blueprint that got most attention for promising to raise the age of retirement for Social Security and privatize Medicare—President Biden sent its members a thank-you note. But it also declared support for the Life at Conception Act, which would not only practically ban abortion and likely IVF, since it would establish legal protection for embryos at “the moment of fertilization.” (Johnson chaired the conservative group from 2019 to 2021, though he hasn’t weighed in on this plan.)

Susan Wild’s bill has 150 cosponsors, including only two Republicans; 160 House Republicans have already endorsed the RSC’s proposal. Which do you think comes closer to representing Republican consensus? Do the math. The Democratic campaign ads are writing themselves.

Critiquing Republicans who are trying to claim they are both “pro-life and pro-IVF” in the conservative Daily Signal, Heritage Foundation research associate Emma Waters declared, “If we believe that life begins at conception, then any consistent pro-life ethic would apply that to embryos.” At least she’s honest. You can’t say that for Lindsey Graham.

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