Republicans Suddenly Realize Alabama's IVF Ruling Is Bad For Them

Conservatives are finding out the hard way that sweeping rulings on reproductive rights have sweeping consequences.

After years of demanding that the law recognize fetuses and embryos as living human beings, Republicans got what they asked for when the Alabama Supreme Court ruled that a clinic’s accidental destruction of frozen embryos amounted to the wrongful death of a child. 

But within a matter of days, it became apparent that the decision would make it harder for many people to get pregnant. Multiple Alabama clinics, including one at the state’s biggest hospital, announced this week that due to the risk of criminal prosecution over the handling of embryos, they were suspending all in vitro fertilization services.

As it turns out, making it harder to conceive is a losing issue among voters; support for fertility treatments is high across the political spectrum. In a memo circulated among Republicans and obtained by The New York Times and Politico, GOP operative Kellyanne Conway’s consulting firm said it found that a whopping 78% of voters who identify as “pro-life” support greater access to IVF. Polling from Pew Research shows that 60% of Republican women even say health insurance should cover fertility treatments.

Open Image Modal
Multiple clinics in Alabama have ceased IVF services in the wake of an Alabama Supreme Court ruling.
picture alliance via Getty Images

Now, Republicans are scrambling to put out the fire without admitting they’re they’re the ones who lit the match.

In the memo, which was sent Friday, the Senate GOP urged its 2024 candidates to go all in on their support for IVF.

“Clearly state your support for IVF and fertility-related services as blessings for those seeking to have children,” and “publicly oppose any efforts to restrict access to IVF and other fertility treatments, framing such opposition as a defense of family values and individual freedom,” National Republican Senatorial Committee executive director Jason Thielman said in the memo.

The NRSC did not immediately respond to HuffPost’s request for comment.

Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey (R) said Friday that she supports “some couples hoping and praying to be parents who utilize IVF” and that she and GOP state lawmakers “are working on a solution to ensure we protect these families and life itself.”

Her office did not immediately respond to HuffPost’s inquiry about what she meant by “some couples.”

IVF is a popular fertility treatment among same-sex couples who can’t conceive naturally, as well as people who aren’t part of a couple at all and wish to conceive with donor sperm or eggs. 

Open Image Modal
Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey signs a sweeping abortion ban in 2019.
via Associated Press

Trump, the likely GOP candidate for president in November, also jumped into the conversation Friday, saying, “The Republican Party will always support the creation of strong, thriving, healthy American families.” He called on lawmakers to “act quickly to find an immediate solution to preserve the availability of IVF in Alabama,” but did not elaborate on how they’d accomplish that under the state Supreme Court ruling.

Former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, another Republican vying for the GOP nomination, tried to have it both ways.

“I had artificial insemination. That’s how I had my son. So, when you look at, one thing is to save sperm or to save eggs. But when you talk about an embryo, you are talking about, to me, that’s a life,” she told NBC News on Wednesday.

When asked directly how she felt about the ruling’s potential impact on IVF access, she essentially didn’t answer. 

“This is one where we need to be incredibly respectful and sensitive about it,” she said, adding: “Every woman needs to know, with her partner, what she’s looking at. And then when you look at that, then you make the decision that’s best for your family.”

When she appeared on CNN later that day, she tried harder to distance herself from the ruling.

Open Image Modal
Both Nikki Haley and Donald Trump attempted to do some damage control on IVF this week, but neither offered anything substantial.
via Associated Press


“I didn’t say that I agreed with the Alabama ruling. What the question that I was asked is, ‘Do I believe an embryo is a baby?’ I do think that if you look in the definition, an embryo is considered an unborn baby,” she said.

Democrats are having a field day with the GOP’s public relations nightmare.

“Republican strategists can tell their candidates to hide behind weak talking points all they want, but the reality is their extreme MAGA field would only further strip away women’s reproductive freedom,” Alex Floyd, the rapid response director for the Democratic National Committee, said in a statement.

Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz, chair of the Democratic Governors Association, told reporters during an event in Washington that the Alabama ruling could be as big as the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, and that the spate of Republican proposals to protect IVF wouldn’t fool voters.

“For Christ’s sakes, [Alabama Sen.] Tommy Tuberville doesn’t even know what [IVF] is, like no idea what it is,” Walz said. “This thing’s gonna be huge. I’m telling you, this reaches into families. This is fundamentally important.”

Tuberville (R) couldn’t get the Alabama decision’s implications straight on Thursday, telling reporters that he’s “all for” the ruling but then saying he opposes its effects on IVF. He then said he needed to read the “legislation” more closely before saying more, though the ruling was a court decision, not a bill or law.

Arthur Delaney contributed reporting.

Our 2024 Coverage Needs You

As Americans head to the polls in 2024, the very future of our country is at stake. At HuffPost, we believe that a free press is critical to creating well-informed voters. That's why our journalism is free for everyone, even though other newsrooms retreat behind expensive paywalls.

Our journalists will continue to cover the twists and turns during this historic presidential election. With your help, we'll bring you hard-hitting investigations, well-researched analysis and timely takes you can't find elsewhere. Reporting in this current political climate is a responsibility we do not take lightly, and we thank you for your support.

to keep our news free for all.

Support HuffPost