IVF drawing and GOP elephant against a red background

Molly Butler / Media Matters

Research/Study Research/Study

Don't believe right-wing media propaganda about GOP support for IVF

IVF restrictions are a longtime component of the GOP's push for a “human life amendment” to the Constitution

After a February Alabama Supreme Court ruling that declared frozen embryos “extrauterine children” led some fertility treatment centers in the state to pause in vitro fertilization services, Republicans and right-wing media have desperately tried to assuage mass political backlash to the decision, insisting that they will protect IVF procedures and that Democrats are overstating the threat to scare voters. Notably, Sen. Katie Britt (R-AL), who delivered the GOP rebuttal to President Joe Biden’s 2024 State of the Union address, appeared the next morning on Fox & Friends for a softball interview in which she boasted of Republican support for in vitro fertilization. But this narrative directly contradicts the GOP’s long-standing support for a so-called “human life amendment” to the Constitution, which would establish “legal rights from conception” and undermine IVF treatments.

  • After decades of support for the HLA, Republicans are now assuring the public that IVF is safe amid political backlash to the Alabama ruling

    • In February, the all-Republican Alabama Supreme Court ruled that embryos created during IVF count as children and are covered under the state’s Wrongful Death of a Minor Act. Critics warn that the ruling could greatly impact fertility treatments and the freezing of embryos, with several clinics already suspending IVF treatments. [The Associated Press, 2/21/24; NBC News, 2/212/24]
    • Sen. Katie Britt (R-AL) appeared on Fox & Friends on March 8 to declare that “IVF is pro-life and pro-family” and claimed that the Republican-led Alabama legislature made sure to “protect” IVF in a recently signed bill. Co-host Ainsley Earhardt added that the Alabama legislature had acted “quickly” in response to the ruling, without mentioning some doctors’ continued concerns they could still be prosecuted even under new legislation protecting IVF. [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 3/8/24; Media Matters, 2/24/24; Axios, 3/7/24]
    • Since the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling, anti-abortion Republicans have pushed for the “human life amendment,” which would add protections to the Constitution for the unborn “from conception.” The most recent official Republican Party platform from 2016 (which was also used as the GOP’s 2020 platform) included the amendment as a policy priority, noting, “We support a human life amendment to the Constitution and legislation to make clear that the Fourteenth Amendment’s protections apply to children before birth.” Model legislation published by Americans United for Life aims to add similar language to state constitutions that would “protect the life of every unborn child from conception to birth.” [ProPublica, accessed 3/7/24; The New York Times, 8/21/22; 2020 Republican Platform, accessed 3/11/24; Americans United for Life, accessed 3/7/24]
    • The right’s swift defense of IVF appears to contradict the GOP’s decadeslong support for the HLA, which suggests that life begins at conception and thus would cover frozen embryos. Britt’s recent Fox interview doubled down on support for IVF despite Republicans’ historical push for the HLA, reflecting the shift in conservative messaging to shield the GOP from political backlash to the Alabama IVF decision. [Reproductive Freedom for All, 6/1/23; NBC News, 3/5/24]
  • Right-wing media claim IVF is not under attack and that Democrats are just using it as a campaign issue to scare voters

    • Fox & Friends co-host Brian Kilmeade stated, “Nobody in this country is anti-IVF. Nobody.” Kilmeade complained that Democrats are “grasping to make this a [Dobbs] decision, it is not.” Co-host Lawrence Jones agreed, adding, “They need a moment. … They knew they ran on Roe v. Wade the last time and got some success from that.” [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 3/7/24]
    • Sarah Parshall Perry, senior legal fellow at right-wing think tank the Heritage Foundation, wrote on X (formerly Twitter) that reactions to the Alabama Supreme Court ruling were “hysteria,” which she described as “sound and fury signifying nothing.” Perry asserted that “nothing supports” the idea that Republicans are targeting IVF, and wrote that “clinics are playing politics on abortion--an issue unrelated to the availability of IVF and the Alabama court decision at all.” [Twitter/X, 2/28/24]
    • Reacting to Perry, Daily Signal writer Mary Margaret Olohan wrote, “No one is coming for IVF right now. So GOP offices scrambling to take action should maybe pause a moment and realize: they’re getting played.” [Twitter/X, 2/28/24]
    • Ryan T. Anderson, president of the conservative Ethics Public Policy Center, attacked the media’s reaction to the February Alabama Supreme Court ruling as misleading: “The media didn’t just overreact to a judge’s mentioning God as the source of the sanctity of life. They falsely claimed IVF was about to be banned—and Republicans fell for the claim.” Anderson also called on Republican lawmakers to “call out the media’s lies suggesting” IVF is under threat. [First Things, 2/28/24]
    • Fox News host Sean Hannity criticized Democrats for riling up their voter base, stating, “Certainly, I see the Democratic campaign as … demagoguing abortion, certainly now demagoguing IVF.” Former GOP House Speaker and Fox News contributor Newt Gingrich claimed, “We can clear that issue up pretty quickly — almost all Republicans are going to be in favor of in vitro fertilization,” and attempted to change the subject to attacking Democrats, saying, “What they're doing with illegal immigration is a far bigger danger to the average woman than anything Republicans are charged with.” [Fox News, Hannity, 2/27/24]
    • On X, Daily Wire editor Brent Scher wrote: “They want so so so badly for IVF to be a campaign issue. Don’t let Democrats and their media tools at WaPo get their way.” Scher shared a Washington Post article and post noting, “Many of the same Republicans who are saying Americans should have access to IVF have co-sponsored legislation that employs an argument similar to the one the Alabama Supreme Court used in its ruling.” [Twitter/X, 2/25/24]
    • GOP strategist Alex Bruesewitz argued, “Don’t let the democrats get away with saying that the GOP is trying to take away IVF. It’s a big lie!” He continued, “Every Republican I’ve seen, including the leader of our party, @realDonaldTrump, said IVF will be protected.” [Twitter/X, 2/23/4]
    • An editorial published by National Review dismissed notions that IVF is at risk, asserting, “There’s no pro-life crusade against in vitro fertilization.” The piece also attacked the practice itself, however, claiming, “We have allowed an IVF industry to arise that involves the creation and routine, deliberate destruction of human embryos. … Even many pro-lifers have not given the issue much attention, preferring to focus on the families it helps to create rather than the nascent lives it begins and ends.” [National Review, 2/23/24]
    • On The Charlie Kirk Show, former Tucker Carlson Tonight writer Blake Neff stated: “The big picture of course is you can already see the Joe Biden ad that’s going to say, ‘Psycho red states won’t let you do IVF anymore, they won’t let you have kids.’ You can see the ads coming.” Turning Point USA co-founder Charlie Kirk claimed that the ruling “wouldn't stop [IVF treatments]. It would just change the treatment slightly then. … So that just seems like a lot of fearmongering.” Another guest, neo-Nazi collaborator Jack Posobiec, then stated, “This creates a huge flashpoint for the Democrats. They want to be able to go after Republicans, go after conservatives saying … Donald Trump would ban IVF.” [Salem Media Group, The Charlie Kirk Show, 2/24/24; Southern Poverty Law Center, accessed 3/11/24]