Mike Johnson Ducks Question Of Whether He Thinks Discarding Embryos Is Murder

"I mean, I believe in the sanctity of life," said the GOP House speaker, who maintains he supports IVF but also believes life begins at conception.

For the second time, House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) is ducking questions about whether he thinks IVF clinics discarding embryos are actually murdering children.

During a Thursday interview on CBS, Johnson was asked how he reconciles his support for in vitro fertilization if he believes that life begins at conception, which, by extension, would mean that he believes fertility centers that dispose of embryos are killing people.

“Do you see that as murder?” Tony Dokoupil of “CBS Mornings” asked Johnson.

“It’s something that we’ve got to grapple with,” Johnson replied. “We support the sanctity of life, of course. And we support IVF and the full access to it.”

The House speaker raved about how popular IVF is. He said he has friends who have successfully used IVF. He said Alabama, which last month changed its laws to define a frozen embryo as a child, is a “good example” of a state trying to protect access to IVF while also curbing abortion rights. GOP leaders in Alabama hastily passed a new law on Thursday to give legal immunity to fertility clinics, which had halted IVF treatments across the state out of fear of potentially being sued for murder for discarding embryos.

But Johnson never actually answered the question about whether he considers disposed embryos to be murdered children.

When Dokoupil asked him to “clarify that point directly,” he still wouldn’t say.

“I think policymakers have to determine how to handle that,” said the Louisiana Republican. “But we do believe in the sanctity of life, and if you do believe that life begins at conception, it’s a really important question to wrestle with. It’s not one Congress has dealt with, and it won’t be. I think it’s a state’s issue.”

Dokoupil tried one more time, asking, “You don’t want to say where you are on it personally?”

“I think I have said. I mean, I believe in the sanctity of life,” Johnson replied. “Every life.”

House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) says he believes life begins at conception and also supports IVF. Does that mean he thinks destroying embryos is murder?
House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) says he believes life begins at conception and also supports IVF. Does that mean he thinks destroying embryos is murder?
Alex Wong via Getty Images

The House speaker similarly avoided answering this question last week, when a reporter at the Capitol asked him about it at his weekly press briefing.

“Look, I believe in the sanctity of every human life ― I always have ― and because of that I support IVF,” he said.

Alabama’s decision to define an embryo as a child has put House Republicans in a bind: Dozens of them, including Johnson, are co-sponsors of legislation to define “human being” to include “all stages of life, including the moment of fertilization.” Their bill, the Life at Conception Act, does not make exceptions for IVF.

In other words, Republicans have already been quietly advocating the idea that an embryo is a child and that to destroy one would be akin to murder. They just weren’t expecting the Alabama court decision to put IVF in the national spotlight, and they don’t have a good answer for how they simultaneously believe that life begins at conception and also support IVF.

The GOP has created this problem for itself. And at least one vulnerable House member, Rep. Michelle Steel (R-Calif.), is clearly worried this could hurt her reelection chances in November.

On Thursday, Steel reportedly went onto the House floor and announced she was removing herself as a co-sponsor of the Life at Conception Act because of “confusion” over its language about IVF.

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