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Trump comes out against Alabama IVF ruling as national Republicans scramble for distance

(Credit: Win McNamee/Getty Images)

Jacob Fischler, Pennsylvania Capital-Star
February 23, 2024

Former President Donald Trump called on Alabama lawmakers Friday to “find an immediate solution” to remedy a state Supreme Court ruling that threatened the availability of in vitro fertilization, and national Republicans running for Congress sought to distance themselves from the Alabama decision as well.

In a post to his social media site, Truth Social, Trump said the Alabama Supreme Court ruling last week that gave fertilized embryos the same rights as children was at odds with the anti-abortion movement that is influential in the Republican Party.

The front-runner for the GOP presidential nomination endorsed efforts by Alabama legislators to tweak state law — which includes one of the most restrictive bans on abortion — to protect IVF.

“Today, I am calling on the Alabama Legislature to act quickly to find an immediate solution to preserve the availability of IVF in Alabama,” the post read, in Trump’s first public comments since the Alabama ruling. “The Republican Party should always be on the side of the Miracle of Life — and the side of Mothers, Fathers, and their Beautiful Babies. IVF is an important part of that.”

IVF, a common fertility practice, involves harvesting a woman’s eggs and fertilizing them outside the body. The resulting embryos are frozen and stored for future transfer into a uterus, but couples often create more embryos than they end up using.

The Alabama justices’ ruling could open prospective parents and clinics to criminal charges of abandonment or manslaughter for embryos that are destroyed rather than implanted into a uterus.

Leaders in Alabama’s Legislature scrambled late this week to address the ruling, with a key committee chairman authoring a bill to declare embryos created during IVF would not be considered a human life unless implanted into a uterus.

The decision led to the closure of at least three IVF programs in the state this week and inspired intense criticism of anti-abortion Republicans from Democrats from President Joe Biden on down.

U.S. Supreme Court decision

The ruling was a continuation of Republicans’ attempts in the states to control pregnancy after the U.S. Supreme Court 2022 ruling overturning the constitutional right to an abortion, many national Democrats said this week.

“They came for abortion first. Now it’s IVF and next it’ll be birth control,” Trump’s 2016 Democratic rival Hillary Clinton said in a tweet Thursday. “The extreme right won’t stop trying to exert government control over our most sacred personal decisions until we codify reproductive freedom as a human right.”

The House Majority PAC, which helps Democrats running for the U.S. House, compiled a list Friday of Republicans in competitive districts who’d voted for legislation the group said would have the same effect nationally as the Alabama Supreme Court’s ruling.

Biden, who is likely to face Trump in the November general election, is seeking to hold the former president responsible. Trump appointed three of the six justices who voted to overturn abortion protections.

Biden campaign director Julie Chavez Rodriguez said in a statement that Trump bore responsibility for the Alabama decision and other restrictions on abortion and fertility treatment.

“American women couldn’t care less what Donald Trump posts on Truth Social, they care that they can’t access fertility treatment because of him,” Chavez Rodriguez said. “Let’s be clear: Alabama families losing access to IVF is a direct result of Donald Trump’s Supreme Court justices overturning Roe v. Wade.”

U.S. Senate GOP campaign arm sends out memo

Trump’s position — that Alabama lawmakers should find a legislative fix to protect IVF after the court’s ruling — is in line with U.S. Senate Republicans’ campaign arm.

National Republican Senatorial Committee Executive Director Jason Thielman sent a memo to GOP Senate candidates, Politico reported Friday.

The memo instructed candidates to “Clearly state your support for IVF and fertility-related services as blessings for those seeking to have children” and to “Publicly oppose any efforts to restrict access to IVF and other fertility treatments, framing such opposition as a defense of family values and individual freedom,” according to the Politico report.

Five GOP Senate hopefuls in key races then issued statements expressing support for IVF. The candidates were Kari Lake in Arizona, Tim Sheehy in Montana, Sam Brown in Nevada, Mike Rogers in Michigan and Matt Dolan in Ohio.

Former United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley, the last Republican still challenging Trump’s 2024 nomination, sent mixed messages this week about her position.

The former South Carolina governor said in an NBC News interview Wednesday that she personally agreed that embryos “are babies,” and that the Alabama court ruled correctly under state law. But she later told CNN’s Jake Tapper she disagreed with the ruling and said the state should reexamine the law.

Alabama lawmakers search for fix

Alabama legislators worked Thursday to file legislation addressing the court’s ruling.

Republican Tim Melson, the chair of the Alabama Senate’s Healthcare Committee, drafted a bill on Thursday that would declare that a human egg fertilized in vitro would not be considered a human life unless implanted in a uterus.

Alabama House Democratic Leader Anthony Daniels, a candidate in Alabama’s 2nd Congressional District, filed a bill that said that a fertilized egg or human embryo outside a uterus shall not “be considered an unborn child, a minor child, a natural person, or any other term that connotes a human being for any purpose under state law.”

Gov. Kay Ivey, a Republican, and leaders of the Alabama Legislature, which has a Republican supermajority, expressed a cautious desire to address the Supreme Court’s ruling.

Ivey, who signed Alabama’s near-total abortion ban in 2019, said in a statement Friday that she looked forward “to continue closely following this issue.”

“Following the ruling from the Alabama Supreme Court, I said that in our state, we work to foster a culture of life,” the statement said. “This certainly includes some couples hoping and praying to be parents who utilize IVF.”

Alabama House Speaker Nathaniel Ledbetter said in a statement Friday that the Legislature would “soon consider a solution” to the issue.

“Alabamians strongly believe in protecting the rights of the unborn, but the result of the State Supreme Court ruling denies many couples the opportunity to conceive, which is a direct contradiction,” the statement said.

Senate President Pro Tem Greg Reed told reporters Thursday the chamber was weighing options.

“If we’re supposed to do something or there’s an opportunity for us to do something with it, what would we do?” he asked. “How would we address that? And so we’ve got some smart legal minds trying to help us understand.”

The office of the state’s Republican attorney general, Steve Marshall, said in a statement ​​he “has no intention of using the recent Alabama Supreme Court decision as a basis for prosecuting IVF families or providers.”

Senate Minority Leader Bobby Singleton, a Democrat, said that Democrats in 2019 pushed for exceptions in the abortion ban, but were rebuffed by majority Republicans.

“At the end of the day, the Republican Party has to be responsible for what they have done,” he said. “They need to watch how they’re passing these laws that could affect people, and this is one of the unintended consequences they never saw coming. This is what we keep trying to tell them on a regular basis. This is theirs. They need to fix it.”

Brian Lyman and Jemma Stephenson contributed to this report.

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