New GOP intraparty fight looms as anti-abortion groups push to ban fertility treatments
In IVF, the sperm and egg are combined and cultivated in a laboratory setting before being implanted into the mother's uterus(AFP)

On Tuesday, Axios reported that Republicans are facing a crossroads as far-right and anti-abortion groups are fighting over whether, and how, to go after fertility treatments like in vitro fertilization (IVF).

"Republicans have largely insisted that fertility treatments aren't at risk from the proliferation of new state abortion restrictions. But anti-abortion groups remain deeply concerned with the use of embryos in IVF and back tighter regulations on providers," reported Caitlin Owens and Oriana Gonzalez. "The divisions may create a thorny path for 2024 hopefuls intent on bolstering their anti-abortion bona fides while still hoping to differentiate themselves from the rest of the field."

Many virulently anti-abortion Republicans have spoken in favor of IVF, the report noted — former Vice President Mike Pence, who famously vowed to send Roe v. Wade protections to the "ash heap of history," has also said IVF treatments "deserve the protection of the law." However, some anti-abortion groups have lumped IVF in with abortion, as some fetal material is necessarily discarded as medical waste as part of the procedure — even though that fetal material would never have been part of a viable pregnancy anyway.

"Legal experts say that the language of red-state 'trigger laws' banning abortion may, in some cases, be interpreted to apply to IVF as well, since embryos are fertilized before they're stored," said the report. "There hasn't been a large-scale push to interpret the laws that way — in fact, some Republican attorneys general have issued guidance saying that they're not applicable to embryos made outside of a woman's body."

"But the pro-life movement, like the GOP, is still finding its footing in the post-Roe world, and IVF and other assisted reproductive technologies are still opposed by some groups, according to their websites," said the report. "In audio obtained by ProPublica of a meeting between the anti-abortion group Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America and Tennessee lawmakers, the group suggests that lawmakers could discuss regulating IVF 'in a more ethical way' after they focus on abortion bans. That could put positions like Pence's into conflict with some of Republicans' most reliable allies, at least if they don't include specific guardrails designed to protect embryos."

This comes as the battle lines take shape in a similar fight on contraception, protected by a separate Supreme Court ruling in Griswold v. Connecticut but on similar constitutional privacy grounds to the now-overturned Roe. Some Republicans, like Rep. Kat Cammack (R-FL) have emphatically stated banning contraception is not on the table; however, some GOP abortion bans include language that, taken literally, could ban certain contraceptive procedures, and the University of Idaho recently warned employees not to provide birth control out of legal caution over interpretation of the state's abortion laws.