Republicans’ Pasts Haunt Them As They Rush To Support Reproductive Rights They Put In Harm’s Way

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Ahead of the 2024 elections, the National Republican Senatorial Committee has been distributing memos to Republican candidates across the country, advising them to publicly support access to contraception and in vitro fertilization — despite what Republicans have been doing to the contrary in the Senate in recent weeks and months. 

“NRSC encourages Republican Senate candidates to clearly and concisely reject efforts by the government to restrict IVF,” reads a February memo on IVF put out not long after the Alabama Supreme Court ruling endangering the procedure. 

Just a few weeks back, the NRSC put out a separate memo, advising candidates that a key part of their platform should involve expressing support for access to birth control and exposing “the Democrats’ lies on this issue,” according to Axios.

It’s all part of a broader effort by Republicans to try to create a world, ahead of 2024, in which their party is not responsible for putting abortion, and nearly every other form of reproductive care, in harm’s way after the Supreme Court’s Dobbs decision.

At the time, Republicans nationwide celebrated the now-two year old ruling as a major win for the religious right. But in every election since June 2022, abortion and reproductive rights have been a major political force for Democrats, an energizing force for voters across the political spectrum and a serious vulnerability for Republicans across the country.

The NRSC’s messaging advice to candidates is straightforward — rewrite reality during a politically dicey moment for a party trying to court American voters, who overwhelmingly support access to contraceptives and IVF — but in practice it’s not so simple for incumbents and newly minted Senate candidates alike to distance themselves from years of public record on the issue. 

Over the years, many Senate Republicans have repeatedly publicly declared that they believe in the idea of life at fertilization or that they support some form of fetal personhood legislation — the decades old, conservative belief that fetuses (and, in some cases, embryos) are people, with all the same rights as children or adults. That, of course, majorly complicates the party’s newfound 2024 messaging efforts, for lawmakers, senators, those running for reelection and those brand new to the scene this fall.

And the hypocrisy starts at the top. Despite being a leader in a group that is encouraging Republican candidates to support IVF, NRSC Chair Sen. Steve Daines’ (R-MT) record on the issue is clear. 

Two weeks ago, just like the majority of Senate Republicans, he voted against Democrats’ Right to IVF Act — an effort to protect and expand nationwide access to fertility treatment.

Daines also publicly supports the belief that “life begins at conception.” In 2019, he formed the first ever “pro-life caucus” in the Senate. And in 2021, he introduced legislation that would’ve declared that life begins at conception. House Republicans introduced similar bills around that time, too.  

A federal law that declares life begins at conception could easily be weaponized to threaten access to IVF across the country, especially coupled with hypothetical red state court rulings that bolster fetal personhood ideology or declare embryos children, as was the case in Alabama this spring.    

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), who is running for reelection, has been very vocal on the issue. Earlier this month, he told TPM he supports IVF. That same day, he tried to one up Senate Democrats by bringing his own IVF bill to the floor and asking for unanimous consent ahead of Democrats procedural vote on the Right to IVF Act.

Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) blocked the Republican bill, calling it a “PR tool” that would’ve done little beyond threatening states’ access to Medicaid funding.

“[This is] just another way for Republicans to pretend they are not the extremists that they keep proving they are,” Murray said on the Senate floor as she objected to unanimous consent. 

But in 2016, in the midst of his presidential campaign, Cruz released a video announcing his support for a non-binding resolution on fetal personhood.

While she is not up for reelection this fall, some Republicans, like Sen. Joni Ernst (R-IA), have even launched their political careers on the backs of fetal personhood ideology. The Iowa senator voted for a fetal personhood amendment in the Iowa State legislature in 2013, according to Huffpost. And in 2014, while she was running for her Senate seat, she told the Sioux City Journal editorial board that she would support a federal personhood measure.

They both voted against the Right to IVF Act earlier this month, too.

Some Republican candidates who are currently running for a Senate seat are also scrambling amid the IVF messaging directive from the NRSC. Candidates, especially those who have been vocal about their belief that life begins at conception, are getting cornered by their own words as their past remarks catch up to them. 

Arizona’s election denier candidate Kari Lake is one them.

Lake claims she supports IVF but in 2022, during an Arizona PBS GOP gubernatorial primary debate, she said she “believes life begins at conception.”

Bernie Moreno, a far-right, Trump-backed Republican running for Sen. Sherrod Brown’s (D-OH) Senate seat in Ohio, says, “IVF is a vital tool for families that struggle with infertility. I’m in favor of anything that promotes people having more babies & strong families.” But he has also repeatedly publicly stated that he thinks life begins at conception.   

“Conservative Republicans should never back down from their belief that life begins at conception and that abortion is the murder of an innocent baby,” Moreno said in a social media post in 2022. 

In another instance, Moreno, who is endorsed by the anti-abortion group Susan B. Anthony Pro Life America declared that “faith teaches you that life begins at conception,” according to the Ohio Capital Journal

Republican Mike Rogers, a Senate candidate from Michigan, is another Republican candidate shrouded in hypocrisy.

The former congressman says he supports IVF but he has cosponsored multiple personhood bills during his time on Capitol Hill.

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Notable Replies

  1. Avatar for tpr tpr says:

    “History rewrite” is not the only rhetorical mechanism here. Here’s another: when these GOPers start saying they support IVF, it gives R voters permission to believe that the GOPer has changed their mind, and will no longer actively pursue anti-choice legislation.

    The GOP is furnishing an excuse to low-information voters who always vote R but were thinking about sitting out in 2024 b/c Dobbs, so they will stop worrying about reproductive rights and vote against evil Dems like they want to.

    ETA: fRIst!

  2. Avatar for fgs fgs says:

    I want every embryonic personhood person to be asked point blank how many surplus IVF embryos they have adopted.

  3. I realize I am preaching to the choir here, but man I hate Ted Cruz. I would like to see Ted Cruz and Greg Abbott in an episode of Celebrity Death Match, but hopefully neither of them survives.

  4. Avatar for fgs fgs says:

    No seriously, there should be like a subscription plan to adopt surplus IVF embryos and pay for the storage. Parents who’re done trying can sell them through the cryo agency, sort of like condo owners whose building management does the work of renting out their unit.

    For just $4.99 a day, less than the price of a woke, blended, coffee shake, you can adopt your very own baby! For $7.99 a day you can name her and for $11.99 a day, cheaper than a value meal in the drive through, we’ll send you your very own commemorative test tube with a little blob of snot in it. Call today! Call now!

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