The Heritage Foundation quietly released draconian new IVF policy recommendations for the next GOP president

The Heritage Foundation

Citation Andrea Austria / Media Matters

The Heritage Foundation, the right-wing think tank organizing the plan for a conservative overhaul of the federal government known as Project 2025, recently published another blog critical of in vitro fertilization procedures, this one with a list of specific policy recommendations for limiting access to the reproductive method. 

Heritage has been a staunchly anti-IVF voice, supporting Alabama’s controversial Supreme Court ruling that frozen embryos cultivated through IVF treatment have the same rights as living children, and that a person can be held liable for destroying embryos. 

The list of policy suggestions in the recent blog post echoes the MAGA-backed Project 2025, a comprehensive plan Heritage has spearheaded for the next GOP presidential administration that includes calls to eliminate the term “reproductive health” from federal rules and regulations and to tighten restrictions on abortion rights and access to certain emergency contraceptives. In its pieces on IVF, Heritage expands on the extreme conservative agenda outlined by Project 2025. 

Heritage research associate Emma Waters has been a leading voice from the organization on reproductive issues, specifically denouncing IVF procedures and other “reproductive technologies.” In a March 19 piece, titled “Why the IVF Industry Must Be Regulated,” Waters makes various misleading and fearmongering claims:

  • She writes, “The hysteria about restricted access to IVF services in Alabama … is unwarranted.” In reality, the ruling led multiple Alabama clinics to pause IVF treatments. A new law was passed in an effort to offer civil and criminal immunity to providers and patients of IVF, and clinics reopened, though some providers still warn that more protections are necessary.
  • Waters refers to a 1986 Louisiana law that prohibits embryos from being destroyed and writes that “IVF continues to flourish in the state.” She neglects to mention that as a result of that law, IVF providers rely on out-of-state facilities to indefinitely store embryos, viable or not.
  • Waters also refers to IVF policies of other “Western countries” as a guide for the U.S. but fails to acknowledge that one of her listed countries, Italy, once considered embryos to be human life but quickly reversed the policy after it resulted in IVF success rates dropping heavily. 
  • The piece claims there are “moral issues” with American IVF treatments “and that in many cases,” they amount to “eugenics,” using the bogus science as an anti-abortion and anti-IVF scare tactic.

Waters also lays out “preliminary policy recommendations” for Congress to implement.  

The first recommendation, to “impose a standard of care in IVF clinics sufficient to prevent the wanton or careless destruction of embryonic human beings,” implies that Congress and the federal government should already consider embryos to be “human beings,” the essence of the Alabama Supreme Court ruling that caused disastrous political backlash. 

Many of Waters’ other policy ideas are seemingly benign proposals meant to heighten the barrier of entry to securing IVF procedures, in much the same way anti-abortion lawmakers have used targeted restrictions on abortion providers. These methods, known as TRAP laws, impose medically unnecessary restrictions on abortion providers such as building, location, and reporting requirements that overregulate abortion providers to the point where they can no longer operate. 

Mirroring these laws, Waters writes that IVF providers do not need to close, but “need only require their employees to better secure their facilities, and exercise ordinary care—not negligence—in the handling of embryos.” As such, she suggests requiring “that fertility clinics secure true informed consent of both parents” and “secure true informed consent from women” so they are aware of complications and the “moral calculus” of going through with IVF. Another recommendation is to limit access to IVF by making it a “last resort” for families struggling with infertility.

The Heritage Foundation is preparing to be heavily involved with the next GOP presidential administration, pushing extreme conservative ideas through its Project 2025 policy recommendations. With Waters’ pieces and other content, Heritage has signaled that its ideal restrictions on reproductive health care expand past abortion and contraception and into reproductive treatments like IVF. The Republican Study Committee has released a budget proposal that could threaten IVF by backing a bill that gives legal personhood to embryos at “the moment of fertilization.”