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Trump calls on GOP to protect IVF in all 50 states, a move opposed by the Catholic Church

Former U.S. President and Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump addresses the 2024 National Religious Broadcasters Association International Christian Media Convention, as part of the NRB Presidential Forum in Nashville, Tenn., Feb. 22, 2024. Trump called on Alabama lawmakers Feb. 23 to reverse a state supreme court decision that has nearly halted in vitro fertilization. (OSV News photo/Seth Herald, Reuters)

WASHINGTON (OSV News) — Former President Donald Trump on Feb. 23 responded to the Alabama Supreme Court’s in vitro fertilization ruling in a statement saying he supports the “availability of IVF” and calling on the state’s Legislature to “act quickly to find an immediate solution” to preserve access to fertility treatment in the state.

IVF is an artificial form of fertility treatment opposed by the Catholic Church on the grounds that it often involves the destruction of human embryos and violates their human dignity in multiple other ways.

Trump, who is in the midst of his third bid for the White House and is the clear frontrunner poised to receive his party’s nomination for president, joined several other Republican lawmakers or candidates for office who condemned the Alabama Supreme Court’s ruling.

“Under my leadership, the Republican Party will always support the creation of strong, thriving, healthy American families,” Trump said in a statement. “We want to make it easier for mothers and fathers to have babies, not harder! That includes supporting the availability of fertility treatments like IVF in every State in America.”

Trump added in his statement, “Like the OVERWHELMING MAJORITY of Americans, including the VAST MAJORITY of Republicans, Conservatives, Christians, and Pro-Life Americans, I strongly support the availability of IVF for couples who are trying to have a precious baby.”

“Today, I am calling on the Alabama Legislature to act quickly to find an immediate solution to preserve the availability of IVF in Alabama,” Trump said. “The Republican Party should always be on the side of the Miracle of Life — and the side of Mothers, Fathers, and their Beautiful Babies. IVF is an important part of that, and our Great Republican Party will always be with you, in your quest, for the ULTIMATE JOY IN LIFE!”

A Feb. 16 ruling by the Alabama Supreme Court found that embryos are children under the state’s Wrongful Death of a Minor Act, a statute that allows parents of a deceased child to recover punitive damages for their child’s death. That ruling came in response to appeals brought by couples whose embryos were destroyed in 2020, when a hospital patient removed frozen embryos from storage equipment, which they argued constituted a wrongful death. The judges found that under the law, parents’ ability to sue over the wrongful death of a minor child applies to unborn children, without an exception for “extrauterine children.”

The Alabama legal ruling, while limited in scope, aligns more with the position the Catholic Church has staked out against the legalization of IVF.

The 1987 document from the Congregation (now Dicastery) for the Doctrine of the Faith known as “Donum Vitae” (“The Gift of Life”) states the church opposes in vitro fertilization and related practices, including gestational surrogacy, in part because “the connection between in vitro fertilization and the voluntary destruction of human embryos occurs too often.”

Issued by then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, the future Pope Benedict XVI, the teaching named the “right to life and physical integrity from the moment of conception until death” and “the child’s right to be conceived, brought into the world and brought up by his parents” as behind the church’s moral objections to artificial methods of human reproduction. It emphasized, “The political authority consequently cannot give approval to the calling of human beings into existence through procedures which would expose them to those very grave risks noted previously.”

The teaching warned further, “The possible recognition by positive law and the political authorities of techniques of artificial transmission of life and the experimentation connected with it would widen the breach already opened by the legalization of abortion.”

However, the Alabama high court’s limited ruling was met with backlash, as multiple Alabama IVF providers paused treatment in the state following the ruling, as questions were raised about legal implications for the practice. 

Republican candidates for office distanced themselves from the ruling.

“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,” Rep. Michelle Steel, R-Calif., who represents a district carried by Biden, wrote on X. “I believe there is nothing more pro-life than helping families have children, and I do not support federal restrictions on IVF.”

CNN reported the National Republican Senatorial Campaign sent a memo to their candidates suggesting they “clearly and concisely reject efforts by the government to restrict IVF.” The memo included a recent poll showing the popularity of IVF even among conservatives.

“Campaign on increasing access,” the memo said. “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.”

Nikki Haley, a former U.N. ambassador and South Carolina governor, said that while she personally believes a frozen embryo is a baby, she disagrees with the Alabama Supreme Court’s ruling. Asked by NBC News whether she agreed that embryos are children after that ruling, Haley said, “Embryos, to me, are babies.” Haley added that she underwent fertility treatments.

“I had artificial insemination. That’s how I had my son,” Haley said. “One thing is to save sperm or to save eggs. But when you talk about an embryo, you are talking about, to me, that’s a life. So, I do see where that’s coming from when they talk about that.”

Haley later told CNN that while she believed Alabama’s highest state court ruled on the letter of the law, the state’s Legislature should “go back and look at the law” to protect access.

The Biden campaign said the ruling was tied to the Supreme Court overturning Roe v. Wade.

“American women couldn’t care less what Donald Trump posts on Truth Social, they care that they can’t access fertility treatment because of him,” Biden-Harris campaign manager Julie Chavez Rodriguez said in a statement. “Let’s be clear: Alabama families losing access to IVF is a direct result of Donald Trump’s Supreme Court justices overturning Roe v. Wade. Trump is responsible for 20 plus abortion bans, restrictions on women’s ability to decide if and when to grow a family, and attacks on contraception. He proudly overturned Roe, and brags about it on the campaign trail — as recently as last night.”

According to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, approximately 238,126 patients underwent IVF treatment in 2021, resulting in 112,088 clinical pregnancies and 91,906 live births.

Kate Scanlon is a national reporter for OSV News covering Washington. Follow her on X (formerly known as Twitter) @kgscanlon.

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