IVF ban exposes GOP extremism

No limit to Republican attacks on reproductive freedom in 2024

IVF ban exposes GOP extremism
Photo by Gayatri Malhotra on Unsplash

This is a post from FrameLab contributor Jason Sattler. Jason is LOLGOP on Twitter and pretty much any other social media platform. His writing has appeared in USA TODAY, Wired.com, the New York Daily News and Alternet.

Republicans just can’t help themselves.

When a majority of the Alabama Supreme Court ruled in February that frozen embryos stored in a fertility clinic freezer in Mobile were “extrauterine children,” and thus covered by the state’s Wrongful Death of a Minor law, the impact was immediate. The University of Alabama-Birmingham, the largest healthcare system in the state, halted all in-vitro fertilization (IVF) treatments.


Even Republicans recognized how absurd an IVF ban must look to most Americans — even Republicans in Alabama, the state that elected Tommy Tuberville! The GOP-dominated legislature swung into action passing a bill “narrowly tailored” to reopen IVF clinics, which was quickly signed into law by the state’s Republican governor


Now Republicans could return to their favorite topics — like Donald Trump spitballing on the radio how many abortions he wants to ban or concern-trolling Democrats by warning that running on reproductive rights is a bad idea, even though measures protecting reproductive freedom have won big when they were explicitly on the ballot in Kansas, California, Kentucky, Michigan, Montana, Vermont, and Ohio. Who needs to win those states?

But whoops!

On Thursday, the Republican Study Committee (RSC), a conservative caucus made up of the vast majority of the Republican majority of the House of Representatives, released their new budget. Along with raising the Social Security retirement age and decimating Medicaid, the RSC backs the Life at Conception Act, which would ban both abortion and IVF in all 50 states by stating that from the “moment of conception” an embryo is a human being.

What’s going on?

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Consistency: The hobgoblin of right-wing losers

The unusual thing you’re seeing is some Republicans being honest about their version of morality.

If fertilized eggs are children of any sort, IVF cannot exist. About 50-70 percent of embryos end up discarded during the normal process leading up to implantation.

“Politicians cannot call themselves pro-life, affirm the truth that human life begins at the moment of fertilization and then enact laws that allow the callous killing of these preborn children simply because they were created through IVF,” said Lila Rose, president of the far right anti-abortion group Live Action, in response Alabama’s Republicans trying to unfreeze IVF.

Rose’s view allows no exceptions.

No exceptions for families desperate to get help conceiving. No exceptions for any abortions. Not for rape or incest. Not for medical emergencies that threaten the life of the pregnant person. Not for fetal abnormalities, even abnormalities that mean the fetus will die excruciatingly at birth.

It’s a consistently extreme yet pure moral worldview — one supported by maybe 17 percent of America.Professional Republicans know they lose when they run on this position in any competitive race, often by double-digits.

Abortion bans vs. reproductive freedom

That’s why there’s what we can call an “Unholy Compromise” on the right.

This dirty deal with the devil is designed to give Republicans the wins they need to rule while giving the fundamentalists the moral consistency they demand.

It goes like this:

  • Republicans get to hedge on abortion rights in public using coded “pro-life” language. They can say they’re for “exceptions” for rape or incest or life of the person giving birth. They can pretend that they have no intention of actually punishing women or going so far as banning birth control.
  • Then when they win, they will appoint fundamentalist judges who will make sure that there are no actual exceptions for anything. If they’re truly consistent, they’ll also move the law so that it bans IVF and birth control, though they get that may take a minute.

And this Unholy Compromise worked!

Overturning Roe was the greatest success of America’s right-wing, besides our tax code.

Playbook for reproductive domination

But now the fundamentalists won’t just play defense. They want their consistency, especially in places where they have little-to-no fear of losing electoral power, like Alabama.

In fact, just a few days before Alabama’s Supreme Court banned IVF, a bill in Oklahoma gave America a preview what the beginning of a consistent fundamentalist approach to opposing reproductive freedom looks like:

TV graphic detailing Oklahoma bill to ban reproductive freedom

Project 2025, the “Christian Nationalist” plot against America, offers significant details about how a new Trump administration can roll back abortion rights on “Day One.”

The New Republic’s Melissa Gira Grant explains:

Outlaw abortion. Until then, surveil abortion in the areas in which it remains legal in order to prioritize criminal cases against ‘chemical abortion’ and ‘abortion tourism.’”

The playbook says the president should enforce a 150-year-old law, the Comstock Act, which right-wing groups see as a way to ban abortion nationally because it outlaws the use of the mail for the purposes of sending or receiving any object that could be used for an abortion. It is the position of the playbook that mailing abortion pills — what they call ‘chemical abortion’ — is already illegal in every state.”

In case you didn’t know, abortion pills are the most common form of abortion and are generally safer than Tylenol or Viagra. The MAGA plan is for them to be as illegal as heroin by the end of January 2025.

Kellyanne Conway: ‘Shut up!’

This is the minimum expectation for Republicans, whose biggest electoral motivation will always be pleasing the consistent extremists — because those extremists are the people most likely to blast them on Fox News or AM radio, or to challenge them in a primary.

Kellyanne Conway, Donald Trump’s messaging guru, is looking for new ways to communicate the right’s “Unholy Compromise.” She recognizes that Republicans are the pack of dogs who caught the car and can only offer increasingly more unpopular restrictions on people’s bodies and lives to appease their rabid base.

“I think that to show concession and consensus is really the way to go,” Conway said recently, while advising against the usual Trump attack saying that Democrats want “up until the moment of birth” because “nobody knows anybody” who thinks that’s a real thing.

She added: “If it took 50 years to overturn Roe v. Wade, it’s going to take more than 50 minutes, 50 hours or 50 weeks to explain to people what that means and more importantly, what it doesn’t mean, and to move hearts and minds.”

The subtext here: We won. You won. Don’t rub it in. Don’t inflame this losing issue for us, so we can win again. And then we’ll implement our agenda. Shhh.

Exposing the right-wing mind

There’s no hiding how extreme the MAGA agenda is at this point.

It’s obvious every time a woman is forced to flee her home to get a life-saving abortion, every time a Republican admits they think “contraception kills babies,” every time a right-wing Supreme Court uses the bible to explain that they think “extrauterine children” should have more rights than women.

And they can’t stop admitting that because cracking down on women’s bodily autonomy is an extremely valuable way of enforcing the conservative moral hierarchy, as outlined by Dr. George Lakoff.

If fertilized eggs are children of any sort, women must always be below men. And society must entirely conform with Christians setting the rules for every body with a uterus, because God is above man. And this sort of thinking goes beyond just limiting individual freedoms, it’s also about the right’s ability to decide who gets to raise your children.

Conveniently that means you’re able to force all kinds of misery and horrors on people who can get pregnant.

Yet you have no obligations to the children that result in forced births. That’s why none of the states that have banned abortion have passed any sort of parental leave. You can even starve those kids, if you’re doing it to teach them and their parents a right-wing message.

The terms “extrauterine children” or “preborn children” sound like a joke.

But the punchline has always been complete domination of society by controlling the way we reproduce. And even Republicans know that the vast majority of Americans see that and hate it. That’s why Trump is determined to make this election about something else.

What can we do?

Largely, what Vice President Kamala Harris has been doing:

  1. Talk about the reproductive freedoms and opportunities for women Republicans have taken away thanks to Donald Trump.
  2. Talk about the freedoms and opportunities they still want to take away.
  3. Talk about the ongoing health crisis that has been created by the MAGA majority on the Supreme Court.
  4. Talk about why no one should be forced to suffer the indignities and horrors Donald Trump has inflicted on women.
  5. Talk about the choice we face – a future where women keep losing rights their mothers had or a return to the path of winning more and more freedom for all Americans of any color, orientation, or religion.
  6. Support and amplify anyone who is talking about these things with passion, clarity, and authority.

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