Republicans Have No Effing Clue What To Do With The Alabama IVF Ruling

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WASHINGTON, DC - NOVEMBER 14: U.S. Sen. Tommy Tuberville (R-AL) participates in a Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee hearing on unions on November 14, 2023 in Washington, DC. Union leader testifie... WASHINGTON, DC - NOVEMBER 14: U.S. Sen. Tommy Tuberville (R-AL) participates in a Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee hearing on unions on November 14, 2023 in Washington, DC. Union leader testified before the Committee at a hearing titled, "Standing Up Against Corporate Greed: How Unions are Improving the Lives of Working Families." (Photo by Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images) MORE LESS
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The Republican response to the Alabama Supreme Court ruling that found embryos are considered children in wrongful death lawsuits — a finding that has thrown into question the future of IVF in the state — has been weird. Republican senators, governors and presidential candidate Nikki Haley are all trying to toe some imaginary line between declaring they believe embryos are, in fact, “babies” while still maintaining their support for the procedure as a good tool for helping adults conceive children. Most of them also mention all of this with the caveat that they haven’t actually read the ruling.

Haley was among the first to get tripped up, offering support for the the Alabama Supreme Court’s finding before, seemingly, attempting to walk it back. While she typically straddles a rhetorical middle ground between being “pro-life” and also being realistic about how difficult (and unpopular) it would be for Republicans to actually pass a national ban on abortion, Haley found herself pushing extreme fetal personhood talking points in a Wednesday interview with an NBC reporter when she said she believes that embryos are, in fact, babies. She then largely walked back her seeming support for the ruling throughout the course of her conversation with the reporter, and clarified in a separate interview last night that she doesn’t necessarily agree with the decision.

“Well, first of all, I didn’t — I mean, this is again, I didn’t say that I agreed with the Alabama ruling. What the question that I was asked is, ‘Do I believe an embryo is a baby?’” she told CNN. “I do think that if you look in the definition, an embryo is considered an unborn baby. And so, yes, I believe from my stance that that is.”

The Alabama ruling has already had a chilling effect on in-vitro fertilization in the state, with at least three fertility clinics announcing their plan to pause IVF treatments until they’ve had a chance to examine the legal risks. As many legal and medical experts have pointed out, the state Supreme Court decision doesn’t take into account the difference between viable and unviable embryos, nor does it seem to recognize the impact the ruling will have on patients who simply want to conceive. Haley gestured toward that ambiguity in her initial remarks to NBC Wednesday.

“I would wanna look at it and see what they’re talking about, those that are viable versus those that are not,” she said, before admitting she hadn’t yet read the ruling.

For Haley, the embrace of such an extreme anti-abortion position flew in the face of what has been her strategy throughout 2024 — being so vague on abortion that she doesn’t risk alienating anyone, both die-hard anti-abortion Republicans and the growing number of voters who support access to legal abortion, as evidenced by Democratic wins in the elections since Dobbs.

But Republicans who haven’t been shy about their extreme views on abortion are also seemingly confused about what position to take on the Alabama ruling.

Take Sen. Tommy Tuberville, (R-AL) who has spent a good chunk of his tenure in the Senate making headlines for his performative blockade on military promotions, an opposition meant to protest a Pentagon policy of reimbursing travel expenses for service members who need abortion care. He called the Supreme Court ruling in his home state “a hard one.”

“That’s a hard one. It really is,” Tuberville told a group of reporters at the Conservative Political Action Conference on Thursday, when asked what he would tell women in Alabama who no longer have access to IVF. “Because again, you really want people to have that opportunity,” he continued, referring to the opportunity to have children.

“We need more kids,” he said, calling embryos children and the decision a “state issue” — his state, to be clear — before claiming he also hasn’t read the ruling.

“I’d have to look at what they’re agreeing to and not agreeing to. I haven’t seen that,” he said. 

At a Politico event with governors on Thursday, a handful of Republicans gave similarly cagey responses to questions about the ruling. Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp, Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee and Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt all said they support IVF generally and also asserted they hadn’t read the ruling. Stitt went so far as to say he didn’t think destroying embryos as part of IVF treatment was a crime, but said Alabama has every right to think what it wants in that realm.

“That’s how our system is set up,” Stitt said. “They elect their officials, and they’re going to set up a system that’s different than we would in Oklahoma.”

Even Fox News is struggling with how exactly to stoke IVF panic in the wake of the ruling. A Media Matters For America review found that the network spent six minutes total covering the decision on Wednesday.

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Notable Replies

  1. Frist! This is what happens when you fight for a can of worms to be opened, and it finally is. There were people that were saying IVF and contraceptives would the next targets after Roe. It’s past time to realize these folks are not reasonable- they are fanatics.

  2. Before long they will be saying that menstruation is murder.

  3. Pence tried to make miscarriages criminal when he was Governor of Indiana

  4. Avatar for taylor taylor says:

    Um, I really think this was intended to be satire:

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