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IVF Decision: Republicans Are Running for the Hills

The decision by the Alabama Supreme Court, that frozen embryos count as people for legal purposes, has already had the predicted effect: Three clinics in the state have suspended all IVF-related operations, at least for now. They are making plans to relocate currently existing embryos to another state, and then they will think about next steps.

As we noted yesterday, Nikki Haley went all-in on supporting the Alabama ruling. Perhaps she should have waited to see how the political winds were blowing, because most other Republicans are doing whatever they can to distance themselves from the decision. Among the high-profile Republicans who have made public statements supporting IVF, and doing whatever it takes to keep the procedure available, are Govs. Brian Kemp (R-GA), Bill Lee (R-TN) and Kevin Stitt (R-OK), along with Reps. Nancy Mace (R-SC), Don Bacon (R-NE) and Nick LaLota (R-NY). Even Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) expressed unhappiness with the Alabama decision:

Something is totally wrong. The people who want to have a family should have the government and the law on their side. And the notion that discarded embryos in an IVF somehow turn these people who want children and want families and want the American dream, into criminals is really wrong.

There aren't many issues where Nikki Haley is further right than Matt Gaetz.

Other Republicans are taking the head-in-the-sand approach, and hoping this somehow blows over. The various personalities who host shows on Fox have spent a grand total of 6 minutes talking about the decision. Alabama AG Steve Marshall (R) has noticeably declined to say anything about the ruling, or to give instructions to his subordinates about how to respond to it. Sen. Tommy Tuberville (R-AL) largely dodged questions about the case, saying only "it's tough."

The loudest silence, meanwhile, has come from Donald Trump, who is trying mightily to avoid any engagement with reproductive-rights-related issues, particularly those where the button is as hot as it is here. That did not stop Joe Biden from hammering his rival, of course. In a statement yesterday, the Biden campaign, alluding to a speech Trump was scheduled to give in Nashville last night, said: "Tonight Donald Trump will come face to face with the horrific reality he created: speaking in a state that has banned abortion entirely with no exceptions for rape or incest. Next door in Alabama, couples who face challenges becoming pregnant are cruelly being denied the right to start a family."

In short, most Republican politicians, particularly the ones who are running for office this year, would really like this to go away. They could get their wish. Democrats in the Alabama state House have introduced a bill that would make explicit that embryos are not people. Democrats in the U.S. Senate have done the same. Either or both of these bills could plausibly pass, since there are so many Republicans for whom the IVF decision is a bridge too far (or is too politically poisonous). Alternatively, the U.S. Supreme Court could get involved. It won't be easy to get them to take a case that involves interpretation of state law, but there are a few potential angles, including interference with interstate commerce and violation of due process rights. Remember that the really good lawyers are paid big bucks to make a case even where none exists.

So, this story is most certainly not over. Either the GOP will find a way to overcome this self-inflicted wound, or... it won't. (Z)

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