Updated Feb 28, 2024 - Health

Frozen embryos shouldn't be considered people, two-thirds of Americans say

Share who say they support or oppose frozen embryo personhood and liability for their destruction
Data: Ipsos poll; Chart: Axios Visuals

Two-thirds of Americans oppose considering frozen embryos as people, with the issue rapidly resonating with Democrats already charged up by election-year messaging on reproductive rights, a new Axios-Ipsos poll finds.

Why it matters: The findings suggest the Alabama Supreme Court decision on in vitro fertilization goes well beyond where public sentiment is in the post-Roe world.

Driving the news: 66% of the public oppose designating IVF embryos as children and holding those who destroy them legally responsible, while 31% support it.

  • Republicans are divided on the question, with 49% supporting and 49% opposing.
  • The majority of the country (54%) still isn't familiar with the ruling. But within a week of the decision, 65% of Democrats were, compared with 35% of Republicans.

It's telling how quickly the information about the Alabama ruling spread, particularly on the Democratic side, said Ipsos vice president Mallory Newall.

  • "Democrats are tuned in in a big way," Newall said.
  • And while the Alabama ruling doesn't outlaw IVF, its effects have left a significant portion of the population viewing it as a restriction that's "out of step with where the public is at," Newall said.

Context: The ruling has supercharged the election-year reproductive health debate and left abortion foes struggling to respond to the blowback.

  • It's also clouded the legal landscape around IVF by raising liability risks that could drive up the costs and curtail the availability of services.
  • Senate Democrats on Wednesday are expected to try to force a vote on federal protections for IVF and other fertility treatments that would shield clinics and pre-empt any state restrictions.

Between the lines: Public sentiment on reproductive health is partly shaped by personal experience. Almost half of Americans personally know someone who's had an abortion, and nearly 7 in 10 know someone who's had a miscarriage.

  • The poll suggests reported efforts by former President Trump and other Republicans to coalesce around a 16-week nationwide abortion ban aren't catching on beyond the GOP base, with 57% of the public opposed and 40% in support.
  • There's even more pushback against efforts in some states to ban emergency contraception, or Plan B, with 77% opposed and 19% in support.

On another hot-button issue for states, the poll also showed 56% oppose state bans on gender-affirming medical care for transgender youth while 41% support them.

  • There was a significant partisan split, with 66% of Republicans backing such bans and only 16% of Democrats in support.
  • Just over a quarter said they knew about the recent death of a non-binary Oklahoma teen after an altercation in a school bathroom.

Methodology: This Axios/Ipsos Poll was conducted Feb. 23-25 by Ipsos' KnowledgePanel®. This poll is based on a nationally representative probability sample of 1,020 general population adults age 18 or older.

  • The margin of sampling error is ±3.3 percentage points at the 95% confidence level, for results based on the entire sample of adults.

Go deeper: Biden may have limited options to protect IVF treatment

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