Updated Feb 23, 2024 - Politics & Policy

Scoop: House Democrats plan barrage against GOP on IVF

Photo illustration of a crowd of protestors for women's rights behind a close-up image of in vitro fertilization

Photo illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios. Photo: Nathan Posner/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

House Democrats' main super PAC is promising to pour money into attacking Republicans on fertility treatments in the wake of a controversial, first-of-its-kind Alabama Supreme Court ruling, Axios has learned.

Why it matters: Republicans in both chambers are scrambling to distance from the ruling and the restrictive impact it's already having on IVF clinics.

  • As Republicans face blowback, former President Trump, the GOP presidential frontrunner, on Friday came out in support of IVF and urged Alabama lawmakers to protect the treatment.
  • Trump's call came a day after President Biden's re-election campaign blamed him for the ruling, noting his appointment of conservative justices to the Supreme Court, which overturned Roe v. Wade.

Driving the news: House Majority PAC, in a memo set to be released Friday, listed nearly a dozen current and former House Republicans in competitive districts who have co-sponsored at least one version of the Life at Conception Act between 2021 and 2023.

  • The bill would "grant equal protection" to "every member of the species homo sapiens at all stages of life, including the moment of fertilization."

The big picture: The Alabama ruling, which said that frozen embryos are children, has had a chilling effect on IVF clinics concerned about potential legal liability.

  • Shipping companies are also responding to the ruling by halting the transfer of frozen embryos out of the state.

What they're saying: "While some House Republicans may pretend to oppose the ruling, their support tells a drastically different story," the memo says.

  • "HMP can guarantee that their support will be used against them over paid media in competitive House districts across the country this fall."

The other side: "This is sheer nonsense and nothing but a desperate political ploy to deceive voters when Members obviously support I.V.F. and have made it clear they do," said Courtney Parella, a spokesperson for Republicans' Congressional Leadership Fund.

  • Rep. Don Bacon (R-Neb.) — who is named in the memo — said Democrats have "always twisted the intent of that bill" and that he joined a past version of it because it "had no limiting effect."
  • "I didn't get on this bill this [congressional session] because I asked them to craft more carefully so that it couldn't be twisted by the Dems," he added.

Zoom in: Many of the Republicans named have rushed to proclaim their support for IVF treatment in the wake of the ruling.

  • Bacon told Axios he supports it, with Rep. Nancy Mace (R-S.C.) saying she plans to introduce a resolution and legislation pushing back on the ruling.
  • Former Reps. Mayra Flores (R-Texas) and Yvette Herrell (R-N.M.), who are running for their old seats, said in statements to Axios that they support access to IVF. Rep. David Valadao (R-Calif.) "does not support federal restrictions on IVF," a spokesperson said.
  • "The Alabama ruling should be overturned. IVF helps countless Americans become parents ... and the government should never stand in the way of that," said Rep. Mike Garcia (R-Calif.).
  • Rep. Michelle Steel (R-Calif.), in a post on X, cited her own struggles to get pregnant, writing: "I believe there is nothing more pro-life than helping families have children, and I do not support federal restrictions on IVF."

Between the lines: State supreme court cases can be appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court if they rely on the U.S. Constitution. The ruling this week relies primarily on language in the Alabama Constitution.

Zoom out: Reproductive health care has emerged as a central campaign issue for Democrats after Roe was overturned in 2022.

Editor's note: This story has been updated with the latest.

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