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Top Republicans defend IVF after Alabama ruling

Days after the Alabama Supreme Court ruled that frozen embryos can be considered children under state law, leading some hospitals in the state to pause in vitro fertilization treatment, several top Republican governors said they support the procedure.

Speaking at the POLITICO Governors Summit on Thursday, Govs. Brian Kemp of Georgia, Bill Lee of Tennessee and Chris Sununu of New Hampshire offered strong approval of the treatment that has opened up a new front in the battle over reproductive rights ahead of the November elections.

The Alabama decision complicates the Republican Party’s standing with millions of people who may oppose abortion but support — and in many cases use — in vitro fertilization and other forms of fertility care. One in six Americans who struggle with infertility turn to IVF, according to the National Infertility Association.

Kemp, conservative governor who signed legislation effectively prohibiting most abortions in Georgia after six weeks of pregnancy, said he was comfortable with IVF generally.

“You have a lot of people out there in this country that they wouldn’t have children if it weren’t for that,” Kemp said at the summit.

He said he hadn’t had a chance to look over the Alabama rulings and “wouldn’t even want to try to pretend to understand what the issue is there.”

But it is crucial for people who disagree on issues like IVF procedures to be able to come together and have a discussion about it, Kemp said.

“Those are discussions where we got to get back in this country, where we’re working together on things to find solutions versus just blaming the other side,” he said.

Governor Lee of Tennessee, where abortion is illegal except to save the life of the pregnant person, also said that “generally” he is “supportive of IVF.” He added that he doesn’t yet know “the details of that case and ruling.”

At issue in the Alabama case was the destruction of frozen embryos, and whether that could be considered a crime. Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt said he did not believe it would be, but he defended each state’s ability to determine its own policies on reproductive rights and access to abortion.

“That’s how our system is set up. They elect their officials, and they’re going to set up a system that’s different than we would in Oklahoma,” Stitt said. Abortion is outlawed in virtually all cases in Oklahoma except when necessary to save the pregnant person’s life.

Sununu, a self-described “pro-choice” Republican, was more direct, panning the ruling as “scary.”

“You want to make sure those services are accessible,” he said of IVF.

In 2019, Sununu signed a law that expanded insurance coverage of fertility treatment. Sununu supports restrictions on abortion only later in pregnancy, a position that is ideologically out of step with much of his party’s base nationally.

The governors’ remarks come the day after GOP presidential candidate Nikki Haley told NBC that “embryos, to me, are babies.” She later tried to clarify her remarks, and said on CNN, “I didn’t say that I agreed with the Alabama ruling” while reiterating her belief that an embryo is “an unborn baby.”

Meanwhile, Democrats, including Vice President Kamala Harris, have condemned the ruling and called it the latest Republican attack on reproductive rights after the Supreme Court dismantled Roe v. Wade.

Democratic Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker issued a warning after the Alabama ruling that “MAGA extremists” will continue to come after reproductive rights, according to The Washington Post.

“They are coming for contraception. They are coming for IVF. They are coming for women. And they will lose when voters have their say,” Pritzker told the Post.

Mia McCarthy, Kelly Garrity and Christine Zhu contributed to this report.

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