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Is destroying embryos murder? Speaker of the House of Representatives Mike Johnson declined to comment.

WASHINGTON – Is a frozen embryo a child? And is destroying it murder?

On Thursday, House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) declined to comment.

“Look, I believe in the sanctity of every human life – I always have – and that’s why I support IVF,” he said. said in his weekly press conference when asked about the issue.

Johnson said there are “astonishing” statistics about IVF, or in vitro fertilization, adding that the technology has been available since the 1970s and has led to 8 million births in the United States. He said that thanks to IVF he has “many good friends” who now have “beautiful families.”

“It has to be immediately available,” he continued. “I don’t think there’s a single person in the Republican conference who disagrees with that statement.”

He never actually answered the question.

IVF is a hot topic on Capitol Hill following the Alabama Supreme Court’s ruling this month that a frozen embryo is a child with equal rights under the state’s wrongful death law. The decision was ostensibly intended to restrict more abortion rights, but it has resulted in fertility clinics closing across the state Stopping IVF treatments because they don’t want to risk a lawsuit for throwing away unused embryos.

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IVF is extremely popular; a recent poll shows that more than 80% of respondents are in favor of fertility-related procedures. Whopping 2% of all babies born in America are the result of IVF, and 42% of adults say they have used fertility treatments such as IVF or know someone who has. a Pew Research Center survey last year.

And herein lies the problem for Johnson’s Republicans and the House of Representatives: Dozens of them are co-sponsoring legislation that would define “the human” to include “all stages of life, including the moment of fertilization, cloning, or any other time when a individual member of the human species comes into existence.” Their bill, the Life at Conception Act, makes no exceptions for IVF.

In other words, Republicans have already quietly advanced the idea that an embryo is a child and, by extension, that destroying it is tantamount to murder. They just didn’t expect the Alabama case to put IVF in the national spotlight, and now they can’t explain how they simultaneously believe that life begins at conception and also support IVF.

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They’ve painted themselves into this corner.

Johnson is one of 125 co-sponsors of the House bill. That includes a number of vulnerable Republicans who are running for re-election and who absolutely do not want to appear as a threat to IVF in the coming months.

GOP Reps. Don Bacon (Neb.), Mariannette Miller-Meeks (Iowa), David Schweikert (Ariz.) and Michelle Steel (California) are among those up for re-election in swing districts. They are all co-sponsors of the current or an earlier version of the Law of Life at Conception. And they are all now making public statements strongly supporting IVF – despite that position being directly contradicted by their co-sponsorship of the legislation.

“I was on Meet the Press Now and made it clear that I support IVF,” Bacon says tweeted last week.

“As a doctor and mother, I support these treatments,” says Miller-Meeks tweeted.

“I will oppose any attempt to limit this,” Schweikert said tweeted.

Interestingly enough, steel tweeted that she took advantage of IVF to start her own family, then said she “does not support federal restrictions on IVF.” But she is co-sponsoring legislation stating that life begins at conception and making no exceptions for IVF, which certainly sounds like an opening for federal restrictions on it.

Rep. Michelle Steel (R-Calif.) said yes

Rep. Michelle Steel (R-Calif.) said she “does not support federal restrictions on IVF.” But she is co-sponsoring federal legislation to define life as beginning at conception, with no exceptions for IVF. Bill Clark via Getty Images

In the Senate, Republicans just blocked a bill that would have created federal protections for IVF and other fertility treatments.

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They also have a bill defining that life begins at conception. But an exception is made for IVF: “Nothing in this law shall be construed as requiring the prosecution of a woman for the death of her unborn child, a prohibition on in vitro fertilization, or a prohibition on the use of contraception or any other means of preventing fertilization.”

Yet Republican senators also cannot say whether they think a frozen embryo is a child.

“I don’t want to say they’re not children,” Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) told reporters Tuesday. However, she said she supports IVF.

Sen. Cynthia Lummis (R-Wyo.) said she thinks it is “reasonable” to believe life begins at conception, but noted the Bible does not say this. She suggested that Alabama could amend its laws to specify that an embryo is a child with rights once it is in a woman’s womb, but not when it is frozen in a tank.

“I think there’s a difference,” Lummis said. “That’s, I think, a pretty fair distinction between the two.”

But she also made it clear that she is in any case in favor of IVF.

“Whatever the conclusion, we desperately want to protect in vitro fertilization,” she said.

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