People For the American Way

The GOP’s IVF Flip-Flopping Shows It’s Caught in Its Own Trap

The GOP’s IVF Flip-Flopping Shows It’s Caught in Its Own Trap

First published in The Hill.

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) knows how to turn a phrase. If only he — and countless other Republicans — really meant what they said.

“I think one thing I’ve learned is that nobody’s ever been born in a freezer,” Graham announced after an Alabama court ruled that frozen embryos produced for in vitro fertilization were, in fact, children protected by law. He declared himself in opposition to the hard-right ruling that has effectively shuttered almost half of the IVF clinics in Alabama, insisting that there will be “a correction.”

So where were Graham and other Republicans when Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.) proposed a bill to protect IVF nationwide?

Nowhere; they let the bill tank instantly over a single Republican objection, just as Duckworth no doubt feared they would do.

It looked a lot like what we’ve been seeing from plenty of GOP politicians who ran to microphones and social media to say they were all in favor of IVF, even as they’ve spent years working on bills that would effectively ban it.

There are 125 Republicans in the House, including Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.), who have signed on to the latest version of a bill called the “Life at Conception Act.” 

The bill defines a legally protected “human being” as inclusive of “all stages of life, including the moment of fertilization, cloning, or other moment at which an individual member of the human species comes into being.” There is no exception for embryos created for IVF in the House bill.

Yet Johnson and other House Republicans who have supported this and equally draconian past versions of the bill, like Michelle Steel (R-Calif.), Nancy Mace (R-S.C.), Don Bacon (R-Neb.), former congressman, now senator, Ted Budd (R-N.C.) and others say they support IVF.

And an alarmed National Republican Senatorial Committee is telling GOP candidates to take a public stance in support of IVF.

It’s a mess. And it’s all part of the fallout from the Dobbs decision, by a Supreme Court packed with judges who oppose reproductive freedom.

It’s also just the latest example of the strategy in today’s GOP; say one thing and do another whenever it’s politically expedient.

We all remember how Republicans in Congress fought tooth and nail against President Biden’s infrastructure bill. Then they went home and took credit when federal money started flowing to their states.

They said border security was their top priority, then killed a bipartisan border deal.

And there’s the parade of far-right Supreme Court nominees whose disingenuous statements about Roe v Wade being “settled” provided cover to a GOP that always intended to overturn it.

Of course, the most egregious example is how GOP lawmakers have flip-flopped on supporting Donald Trump, with leaders like Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and former Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) scolding Trump for rallying the mob on Jan. 6 — then letting him run wild with his “big lie.”

Even now, it’s an open secret that prominent Republicans who fawn over Trump in public call him incompetent (and a lot more) in private.

The GOP’s self-made debacle around IVF reflects this rampant hypocrisy. Frighteningly, it also reveals a party increasingly captured by what was once an extremist fringe.

Just as the Alabama Supreme Court was issuing its ruling that embryos are children, its elected Republican chief justice was having a chummy interview with talk show host Johnny Enlow, who thinks Trump is on a mission from God to destroy Bill Gates.

The two bonded over their shared vision of a far-right, theocratic America.

Things will only get worse for the GOP because the party today packs in a huge number of election deniers, conspiracy theorists and powermongers who will say anything to get elected. It’s a hothouse where the truth dies quickly.

The good news, at least for IVF and reproductive freedom overall, is that the issue is not going away. Americans overwhelmingly support IVF and support for abortion rights is higher than ever. People are going to fight hard for access to this vital medical care.

And in November, they’ll remember who was all too willing to take it away from them.


gop, Reproductive Freedom