Feb 27, 2024 - Politics

How Alabama's IVF ruling might spill over into Texas

Illustration of the Texas State Capitol with lines radiating from it.

Illustration: Allie Carl/Axios

Whether frozen embryos are people could be Texas' next big political fight.

Why it matters: Following an Alabama Supreme Court ruling that frozen embryos created through in vitro fertilization are legally considered children — and many Alabama fertility clinics subsequently pausing IVF treatments — Republicans nationwide have been scrambling to address the politically dicey issue.

Between the lines: Former President Trump gave anti-abortion Republicans everywhere a big umbrella of political cover when he wrote in a Truth Social post last week that the Alabama state legislature should "act quickly to find an immediate solution to preserve the availability of IVF in Alabama."

  • The Republican Party "should always be on the side of the Miracle of Life - and the side of Mothers, Fathers, and their Beautiful Babies," he wrote.

What they're saying: Gov. Greg Abbott, in turn, told CNN over the weekend that "Texans agree with what President Trump said, and that is we, as a state, want to ensure that we promote life — we bring more life into the world — and we empower parents to be able to have more children."

  • But he also left open room for debate. "Because this is a relatively new issue, we're just going to have to find ways to navigate laws and facts, situations that are very complicated," he said.

The other side: Some listeners found Abbott's comments less than convincing.

  • "Move your frozen eggs out of Texas," Austin attorney Amy Bresnen, who recently asked the Texas Medical Board for clarification on abortion ban exceptions, wrote on X.
  • "One of my perfect grandkids is with us through the miracle of IVF," state Rep. Donna Howard, an Austin Democrat, wrote on the platform. "Thankfully, frozen embryos are being stored outside of Texas."

Yes, and: Ousted Tyler Bishop Joseph Strickland, a favorite of the right, told the annual conservative conference CPAC on Friday night that the Alabama decision was correct.

  • "We must be strong in the sanctity of life, and all of its repercussions," he said.

Context: Some conservative Christians believe that discarding excess embryos is akin to abortion and religious groups have called for IVF restrictions.

By the numbers: Texas had 42 assisted reproductive technology clinics as of 2020, per the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Threat level: Julian Escobar, an endocrinologist for the Conceive Fertility Center in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, told the NBC affiliate in DFW the news has left patients anxious.

  • "I have patients reach out asking, 'Can I transfer my embryos to another state?' and people trying to make a decision on the disposition of their embryos when they normally would've waited for a little bit. But now they're freaking out," he said.

Reality check: A Texas bill halting IVF "wouldn't get out of committee, it wouldn't get a vote," Kaylen Silverberg, an Austin-based doctor at Texas Fertility Center and who lobbies lawmakers on the state and federal levels about fertility matters, tells Axios.

  • "If it was voted on, it would fail, if it passed, the governor wouldn't sign it into law, and we have friends on the Texas Supreme Court who understand IVF backward and forward."
  • "Oklahoma or Indiana might be the next Alabama — but not Texas," he said.
  • He said he's hearing from lots of concerned patients, but he said he tells them, "The issue in Alabama is an Alabama issue."

What we're watching: Abbott told CNN he has "no doubt that Texas will be among the states that will be addressing" in vitro fertilization.

  • But the Texas Legislature isn't due to meet again until next January, a political eon from now.

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