Jul 28, 2023 - Podcasts

A Spanish warning sign for the GOP

Our weekly politics State of Play looks at what we can learn from Spain’s recent elections. And the latest in the legal woes for Trump and concerns over aging leadership in the Senate.

  • Plus, why the use of donor embryos is on the rise.
  • And, more summer reading recommendations.

Guests: Axios' Alex Thompson, Carly Mallenbaum and Sara Kehaulani Goo.

Credits: Axios Today is produced by Felix Salmon, Alexandra Botti, Fonda Mwangi, Lydia McMullen-Laird and Alex Sugiura. Music is composed by Evan Viola. You can reach us at [email protected]. You can text questions, comments and story ideas to Niala as a text or voice memo to 202-918-4893.

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FELIX: Good morning! Welcome to Axios Today!

It’s Friday, July 28th.

I’m Felix Salmon, in for Niala Boodhoo.

Today: why the use of donor embryos is on the rise.

But first, a Spanish warning sign for the GOP. Our weekly politics State of Play is today’s One Big Thing.

FELIX: Axios's Alex Thompson is here this week with what Washington's talking about and why it matters. Alex, welcome.

ALEX THOMPSON: So good to be here.

FELIX: I want to start by asking about what happened in Spain. This was the big news of the week for me. The far right party in Spain was resurgent. It was doing well in the polls. It was anti-woke. It was talking about immigration and abortion And it wound up imploding and they didn't get into power at all. Is this something that Democrats are hopeful will happen in 2024 that this Culture war stuff is going to backfire on the Republicans.

ALEX: Absolutely. And I think actually some Democrats would argue it already happened in 2022 and in 2018 when you saw Democrats essentially make huge gains in both houses of Congress where voters were a little bit more concerned about stability and sort of went the normie route. And, you know, honestly, this is at the heart of Joe Biden's case for his presidency in 2020 and again in 2024, which is let's lower the temperature, let's try to bring things back to normal. So Democrats, especially in D. C., sort of take solace in, insurgent, right wingers, not doing as well, as maybe some of the, the media predictions made it out to be at some point.

FELIX: How's Donald Trump doing? He was kind of expected to face another indictment this week. He did face new charges in an existing indictment, but he didn't get that new indictment that people were expecting.

ALEX: Well, the fact of the matter is that Donald Trump has sort of use these indictments as a tool for martyrdom. Since his first indictment in New York, his fundraising has improved, his polling has improved, and none of his rivals are able to really get much oxygen, except when they are put on air to be asked about Donald Trump's indictments.

FELIX: The other big topic of gossip and conversation in Washington this week was Mitch McConnell, who just stopped speaking at the beginning of a press conference in what appeared to be a medical episode. How did that go down in Washington?

ALEX: I think despite Mitch McConnell's team's best efforts to downplay the episode there was grave concern, among Republicans, reporters, Democrats, about his health. And I think beyond the health, Mitch McConnell has a lot of command of his caucus and despite being the head Republican of the Senate, he also has no relationship with Donald Trump anymore. If his health problems become serious and significant, it's not clear that there are any other Republicans that would be able to fulfill that sort of same seat where you are able to stand up and in some cases resist Donald Trump while also still supporting Donald Trump while also still keeping control of that caucus.

FELIX: Alex Thompson is a national political correspondent for Axios. Thanks, Alex!

ALEX: Thank you.

FELIX: In a moment: more and more Americans turn to donor embryos.

FELIX: Welcome back to Axios Today. I’m Felix Salmon.

This week marks 45 years since the first in vitro fertilization, or IVF baby was born.

And today, an off-shoot of IVF – the use of donor embryos – is gaining traction as a fertility option.

The number of donated embryo transfers more than tripled in the U.S from 2004 to 2019 – resulting in nearly 8,500 total births during that period. That’s according to the American Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology.

Axios’ Carly Mallenbaum is here with the story. Carly, can you explain how embryo donation works?

CARLY MALLENBAUM: Sure. What happens in in vitro fertilization, if a couple or a family or a person is done with their embryos, they might have some extras left over. You often want to get more than one embryo to ensure you have a healthy birth. And just a quick reminder that an embryo is formed after sperm and egg combine. And so once an embryo is formed, it's frozen in this case, and then it can be transferred into the recipient's uterus. The same way someone doing IVF with their own egg would do it. They're just doing it with an embryo that's not genetically related to them.

FELIX: How long are these frozen embryos viable?

CARLY: As far as we know, no expiration date, you can keep freezing them. So, if you’re an IVF patient, you can decide to dispose of them. You can decide to give them to science research or you can donate them and that's an option that we're seeing more people do as IVF has become more popular and one place it's becoming more popular is in some Christian circles, actually there are some faith based groups that call it “embryo adoption” I'm putting in quotes They actually treat it in a similar way that they would infant adoption. They have like a home study and they have like screening before a recipient gets that donated embryo. There is a good portion of people who do embryo donation who believe that life begins at conception and maybe they've done IVF and they couldn't think of disposing of their embryos because in their mind, you know, this is an unborn child.

FELIX: Do people get paid for donating embryos?

CARLY: Depends what organization you donate it through. If you do it through one of these major faith based groups, you're probably not getting paid for it. But if you're doing it in a fertility clinic, you probably are compensated for it. They'd probably say they're compensating you for the time and so it kind of depends.

FELIX: How much does the process of receiving a donated embryo cost?

CARLY: Of course, that's a range, and just like you would with an IVF process, that means you're going to have to take fertility drugs. That means you're going to have to have it transferred into your body. One of the biggest groups that specializes in embryo donation, the NEDC, it starts at 9,000 and that's even before you transfer the embryo. That's just like connecting with the donated embryo.

FELIX: So, about 41% of donated frozen embryo transfers resulted in live births in 2020. That's the most recent year for which we have data?

CARLY: That's right. But that number has gone up. I mean, it's not too bad. And there are a lot of factors, age is a big one. Age of the person carrying the child and age of the person who had the embryo frozen. Those are really big factors. IVF is not one of those fail safe plans, like it doesn't always work. But the same is true for donated embryos. However, I will say with the donated embryos, most of them are probably tested beforehand. You probably know about the embryo quality. And so the success rates are pretty, relatively good, but, you know, in the last 45 years, technology has gotten better for this stuff.

FELIX: Carly Mallenbaum is a reporter and editor for Axios. Thanks, Carly.

CARLY: Thank you, Felix.

FELIX: Before we go, another installment of summer reading recommendations – this time from Axios’ own editor in chief, Sara Goo.

SARA GOO: Every summer, I actually have this tradition where I read another book from Geraldine Brooks. She's one of my favorite authors: she's a journalist, but she's become obviously a Pulitzer Prizewinning novelist and I, you know, haven't read all of her books. I don't have time to read them all in a row. So every summer I get to pick one off the shelf and it transports me to another place in time.

What she does is she takes a piece of truth in history, a real story of a real person, and then she kind of creates a more fictional world and story around them. And so one summer, for example, I read “Caleb's Crossing” a book she wrote about the first young, native American boy who, grew up in Martha's Vineyard and he became the first Native American to graduate from Harvard College. And you know, as journalists, I really relate to that kind of, curiosity and desire to figure out what's the backstory here to this one fact.

So this summer I'm reading, “The Secret Chord,” which is, uh, a book she wrote a while ago. I hadn't read yet about the Biblical King David and his backstory. I just find it fascinating to live with her characters and pretend what it's like to have lived in a different time, in a different place in the world. And what better summer read than that?

FELIX: That’s Axios editor-in-chief, Sara Goo.

And that’s all for this week. Axios Today is produced by Fonda Mwangi, Lydia McMullen-Laird and Robin Linn, along with senior sound engineer and producer Alex Sugiura. Alexandra Botti is our supervising producer.

Aja Whitaker Moore is Axios’ executive editor.

I’m Felix Salmon. Stay safe, enjoy your weekend and Niala Boodhoo is back with you here on Monday.

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