'Engage on this issue': House GOP leadership tells members to take on abortion; IVF

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WASHINGTON — Republican leaders are encouraging Congressional candidates not to shy away from discussing abortion and in vitro fertilization during the election this fall.

The guidance comes as Democrats prepare to hammer Republicans over reproductive rights in the first presidential election cycle since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade. It also comes after a court ruling in Alabama threatened IVF in the state and showcased new ways the viewpoint that life begins at conception can complicate public policy and politics around family planning.

“We believe it's important for our members to engage on this issue and not stick their heads in the sand, which I think some potential candidates had done in the past,” said Rep. Elise Stefanik, chair of the House Republican Conference, at the group’s annual retreat in West Virginia this week.

Liquid nitrogen is used to keep robotic IVF and egg storage systems cold at the TMRW Life Sciences lab in Boulder, Colorado.
Liquid nitrogen is used to keep robotic IVF and egg storage systems cold at the TMRW Life Sciences lab in Boulder, Colorado.

Democrats “are the radicals on this,” she said, arguing they want to repeal the law that bans the use of federal funds on abortion and that they support late-term abortion.

It reflects a common GOP approach to abortion messaging — polling shows that while more than 60% of Americans oppose abortion bans, only around 20% believe there shouldn’t be restrictions in the last trimester of pregnancy.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 98.9% of abortions took place before the 20th week of pregnancy. And experts say no abortions take place “up to the moment of birth,” as Republicans often describe.

However, there is little consensus among Democrats as to whether there should be restrictions on abortion after viability.

Republican candidates encouraged to support access to IVF

Stefanik said the party has significantly boosted the number of female candidates running and those efforts have “strengthened our conference’s ability to communicate on these issues.”

Stefanik and National Republican Congressional Committee Chair Rep. Richard Hudson, R-N.C., have been encouraging members to clearly state their position that they support access to IVF. The NRCC is also providing messaging support for candidates to learn how to best communicate to voters on the issue.

The Alabama state Supreme Court ruled last month that embryos used in IVF are children and are entitled to legal protections under the state’s wrongful death law. The decision kicked off a nationwide frenzy among fertility patients and healthcare providers over the potential implications of similar decisions in a post-Roe political landscape.

Republicans came out forcefully in favor of IVF following the ruling. The National Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee advised its candidates to actively broadcast their support.

But when asked to provide unanimous support for federal IVF protections, Republicans in the Senate said it should be left up to states to protect the procedure — a sentiment House Speaker Mike Johnson, R-La., echoed Thursday.

Recent polling indicates IVF is immensely popular with voters: 86% of people polled say IVF should be legal and 14% say it should be illegal, according to a CBS News and YouGov poll conducted two weeks ago.

Two-thirds of Americans support a federal law protecting abortion, including 86% of Democrats and 67% of independents, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. Some 57% of Republicans oppose federal abortion protections.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Abortion, IVF should not be shied away from GOP tells House candidates