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Consistency matters

If we are pro-life, that logic extends to IVF

A monitor shows the process of extracting cells from an embryo at an IVF lab at the Aspire Houston Fertility Institute in Houston, Texas, on Feb. 27. Associated Press/Photo by Michael Wyke

Consistency matters
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On Monday, Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, and Sen. Katie Britt, R-Ala. released plans to enshrine access to IVF at the federal level by amending the Social Security Act. Any state or local government that passes a ban on IVF would no longer be eligible for federal Medicaid dollars under the proposed legislation, known as the IVF Protection Act.

Reproductive freedom has become a flashpoint of the current election cycle. Republicans have found abortion bans to be generally unpopular, even in deep red states, since the Dobbs decision returned the issue of abortion to states in 2022. Republicans hit another unpopular minefield in February 2024 when the entirely Republican-composed Alabama Supreme Court ruled that embryos have claims to fetal personhood. The Court ruled that life begins at fertilization, qualifying any embryo as a human being regardless of stage of development, viability, or location.

The views of Senators Cruz and Britt regarding abortion and IVF are deeply contradictory. Both senators oppose abortion, seeing an unborn embryo gestating in a womb as a human life worthy of protection under the law. Texas and Alabama have near total abortion restrictions. The moral status of the unborn is on full display in pro-life political discourse in promoting state-level abortion bans. Yet this discussion is palpably absent when discussing IVF. Make no mistake, the practice of IVF results in the willful destruction of human embryos. This carries the same ethical weight as any abortion would.

A recent poll showed that 86 percent of Americans are in favor of protecting legal access to IVF. Sen. Cruz, up for re-election this fall, is hoping to distance himself from increasingly unpopular positions on assisted reproductive technology. Sen. Britt formerly remarked that IVF was an issue for states to decide after the Alabama Supreme Court ruling, yet is now sponsoring legislation to ensure IVF protection at the federal level.

Sen. Britt has also introduced federal legislation that would protect children diagnosed with Down Syndrome in the womb to be selectively aborted, which is absolutely admirable. Yet Sen. Britt’s office did not respond for comment on whether she would be willing to extend that same proposed federal protection for embryos tested and diagnosed with Down Syndrome in an IVF lab.

This bill threatens to deny poor women access to Medicaid, should rich women become unable to access IVF.

In an interview with Bloomberg regarding the bill’s introduction, Cruz emphasized that for parents needing medical treatments like IVF in order to conceive and carry children, those treatments are a federal right, needing the protection of federal law. It was unclear which right he was referring to, as the bill itself did not rely on this language to ensure access to IVF. Would Sen. Cruz see the purchase of biological material and rent of a woman’s womb to gestate a child by a gay couple as a federal right?

This bill threatens to deny poor women access to Medicaid, should rich women become unable to access IVF. The majority of women who seek abortions are demographically more likely to be poor minorities; Black women seek abortions at rates four times higher than white women. The inverse is true for IVF, accessed by disproportionately wealthy women, 75 percent of whom are white.

Cruz and Britt hope to ensure that any wealthy individual in their states have total, on-demand reproductive freedom, which includes culling undesired embryos. Instead of destroying unwanted pregnancies in the womb with abortion pills, they will merely do so in the IVF lab.

The pro-life movement is at a crossroads, one that demands embryos created through IVF be treated with the same moral weight as embryos under threat of abortion.

Rachel Roth Aldhizer

Rachel Roth Aldhizer lives and writes in North Carolina, where she is an unlikely disability advocate and mom to four kids, one of whom is profoundly disabled. Her work on disability policy and a theology of suffering has appeared in numerous publications, including Public Discourse, Plough, and The American Conservative.

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