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Sex. Celebrity. Politics. With Teeth

Anti-Abortion Group Advises State Lawmakers Not to Go After IVF or Birth Control Just Yet

"I don’t think that that’s the conversation that you need to have now,” one anti-abortion leader said in leaked audio obtained by ProPublica.

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Photo of Plan B emergency contraceptive on shelf and photo illustration of IVF
Photo: Getty (Getty Images)

During an October 27 call with Tennessee lawmakers, anti-abortion groups urged them to stay the course on their strict abortion ban (which criminalizes doctors), but added that now isn’t the right time to restrict IVF and birth control—because people are still angry about the abortion law. ProPublica obtained audio from the meeting, which is a reminder that these deeply unpopular laws attacking reproductive choice often come from lobbying groups.

In recent months, politicians have been more explicit about their desire to restrict IVF and emergency contraception. It’s routine to discard extra embryos created during the process of IVF. The two forms of emergency contraception—the morning-after pill and the copper IUD (if inserted shortly after unprotected sex)—work by preventing ovulation and preventing sperm from fertilizing an egg, respectively. They do not interrupt an existing pregnancy and thereby do not cause an abortion, but many anti-abortion groups wrongly believe emergency contraception can prevent a fertilized egg from implanting in the uterus and, as such, want to ban it.

On the call, Stephen Billy, the vice president of state affairs for Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America, responded to a question from Tennessee state Rep. Susan Lynn (R) about how to discuss IVF and emergency contraception.

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“Maybe your caucus gets to a point next year, two years from now, three years from now, where you do want to talk about IVF, and how to regulate it in a more ethical way, or deal with some of those contraceptive issues,” Billy said. “But I don’t think that that’s the conversation that you need to have now.”

Billy did not respond to ProPublica’s requests for comment. Here is audio of the moment:

Ironically, Billy is the same person who, just last week, criticized losing Republican midterm candidates for not elevating their anti-abortion positions. From The 19th:

When Democrats centered abortion in the wake of the Dobbs decision, some Republican candidates ignored the issue or shifted their position, what he called the “ostrich” or “opposum” strategy.

“To think that you could just avoid the issue and not talk about the issue when they have put millions of dollars into making it an issue of the campaign … is malfeasance,” Billy said. “When you don’t talk about it, when you don’t answer the question, when you don’t have a principled response, you get defined, and you let the other side define you.”

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Billy’s group is, of course, doing a bit of the same and avoiding talking about its ultimate goals, which are a national abortion ban, then fetal personhood under the 14th Amendment. Declaring that every zygote, embryo, and fetus is a legal person would totally ban abortion, criminalize miscarriages, restrict IVF, and could lead to bans on emergency contraception based on mis- and disinformation about how EC actually works. But anti-abortion groups don’t talk about that—until this year, their message was that the Supreme Court should overturn Roe in order to send abortion laws “back to the states.”

Well, who’s the ostrich now, Stephen?