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GOP lawmakers and candidates race to distance themselves from Alabama court decision

A number of congressional Republicans running in 2024 are swiftly distancing themselves from a controversial Alabama Supreme Court ruling seen as infringing on IVF, the latest obstacle for GOP candidates in the post-Roe era.

From House to Senate races, new candidates and incumbents alike are aggressively trying to neutralize Democratic attacks that the decision in Alabama is just the latest in attempts by the GOP to crack down on reproductive rights and the party is encouraging members to get ahead of the issue.

“As someone who struggled to get pregnant, I believe all life is a gift. IVF allowed me, as it has so many others, to start my family,” California Republican Rep. Michelle Steel, who represents a district carried by Biden, said on X. “I believe there is nothing more pro-life than helping families have children, and I do not support federal restrictions on IVF.”

Republican Rep. Don Bacon, who is also running in a swing district in Nebraska, said, “I want to give those who want to be moms and dads that opportunity. Therefore, I will not support restrictions to IVF.”

The Alabama Supreme Court ruled earlier this month frozen embryos are children and those who destroy them can be held liable for wrongful death, a move that prompted several fertility clinics in the state to pause IVF treatments. Democrats swiftly seized on the decision as further proof of how Republicans’ decadeslong push to overturn Roe v. Wade is having reverberating effects in the states.

On the campaign trail though, the National Republican Congressional Committee is trying to help candidates navigate what is emerging as a tricky political moment. And the National Republican Senatorial Campaign communications director Mike Berg told CNN in a statement, “There is not a single Republican Senate candidate in the entire country proposing a ban on IVF.”

The NRSC also sent a memo to their GOP candidates Friday and obtained by CNN that encourages candidates to “clearly and concisely reject efforts by the government to restrict IVF.” The memo also outlines a recent poll showing the popularity of the procedural even among conservatives.

The memo tells candidates to “express support for IVF” and “oppose restrictions” on the procedure.

“Campaign on increasing access. Advocate for policies that increase access to fertility treatments including insurance coverage and support services. Position this stance as part of a broader commitment to health care accessibility and family support,” the memo states.

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan, who is running for US Senate, wrote on X this week, “IVF helps give many Americans the chance to experience the joy of parenthood and government should never stand in the way of that. The Alabama ruling should be overturned.”

Republican Dave McCormick, who is running for US Senate in Pennsylvania, also wrote on X, “IVF is a ray of hope for millions of Americans seeking the blessing of children,” he said, adding, “I oppose any effort to restrict it.”

While some in Congress have struggled to clearly articulate their position, including Sen. Tommy Tuberville of Alabama, who seemed to tell an NBC reporter he backed the decision before appearing to backtrack that he wanted more families created, many members who are running in tough races are trying to quickly get out ahead of potential attacks.

“Millions of Americans struggle every year with infertility and rely on access to IVF treatments in order to become pregnant and enjoy the gift of parenthood. The ruling in Alabama is extremely shortsighted and will have a negative impact on those seeking IVF treatment,” Rep. Mike Lawler, a Republican from New York, said. “It is simply unfathomable to me that a party that proclaims itself to be pro-family would support policies, like this one, that directly impact the ability of people to have families. It should be reversed.”

Rep. Nick LaLota, another New York Republican in a Biden-won district, said “blue states went too far in allowing extreme third trimester abortions and a red state potentially preventing families from easily accessing life changing fertility treatments goes too far as well.”

Some Republicans in competitive races want to go further than just expressing support for fertility treatments. GOP Rep. Nancy Mace of South Carolina, who has been one of the loudest critics of her party’s abortion message, told CNN she is exploring legislation to protect a woman’s access to IVF. “We should do everything we can to protect IVF for women everywhere,” she said.

Even some conservatives are going out of their way to express support for IVF and distance themselves from the Alabama ruling. Republican Rep. Matt Gaetz of Florida told CNN’s Abby Phillip on Thursday night, “I believe the Alabama law needs to change because the Republican Party cannot be the party against family formation.”

And Rep. Kat Cammack, co-chairwoman of the bipartisan Women’s Caucus and a member of the conservative Republican Study Committee, told reporters Friday, “I think IVF is really, really important for families that are struggling to conceive. I honestly am shocked that this is a conversation that we’re having in 2024.”

Asked if she would support legislation to ensure access to fertility treatments, the Florida Republican said, “If we’re going to be pro-family, that means that we have to support families that are having difficulties conceiving wanting to grow their families.”

“And ultimately, if it requires a legislative solution, then that’s what we need to look to,” Cammack added. “But it’s pretty fresh, pretty raw. So a lot of discussions happening right now.”

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