For the past decade or so, Republicans and anti-abortion activists have insisted that they just wanted to overturn Roe v. Wade to kick abortion back to the states to decide. They said abortion bans without rape exceptions were too extreme; they pushed back on then-candidate Donald Trump for saying women who have abortions should be punished.
Then they won—Roe was overturned—and everything changed. It’s all out in the open now: Republicans are pursuing a nationwide six-week abortion ban and signaling that they’d rather let pregnant people die than give them a legal abortion. Anti-abortion activists are arguing that 10-year-old rape survivors should be forced to give birth. They’re coming for Plan B emergency contraception, and now they’re admitting what reproductive rights advocates have warned about for years: Not even in vitro fertilization is safe.
“Ultimately, we believe that all human life is valuable and deserves our legal protection from that beginning moment of fertilization, whether that occurs through normal means or through IVF. And so certainly we want those embryos who are created through the IVF process protected,” Rebecca Parma, senior legislative associate with Texas Right to Life, told a local Texas news outlet on Wednesday.
“But, I think it’s going to be a process,” she added. “I don’t think it’s something that’s going to happen next legislative session because obviously, IVF is something that is part of our culture and something that I think is pretty near and dear to a lot of people who desire families and desire children.”
Reproductive rights advocates have long suspected this was coming, because the push for fetal “personhood” laws in several states defines a fertilized egg as a person, and IVF clinics store, donate and discard embryos. The 19th News reported Thursday that couples are already moving their embryos across state lines to avoid potential legal complications:
In Seattle, Dr. Lora Shahine, a reproductive endocrinologist at Pacific NW Fertility and host of the Baby or Bust Podcast, said every single patient she’s had since Roe was overturned has asked her about how the decision could affect their treatment. Calls are coming in from out-of-state patients who want to establish care with Shahine so they can then move their embryos to Washington, where the right to abortion has been codified for more than 30 years.
Those she’s spoken to are worried their embryos could be held hostage by abortion legislation and that they’d then be unable to move them out of state, Shahine said.
The idea that extreme abortion bans could impact IVF has long been a part of the conversation on the Left, but Republicans and anti-abortion activists almost never acknowledge that hypothetical, because it’s so extreme as to be almost unfathomable. The fact that the most prominent anti-abortion group in Texas is now saying the quiet part out loud and openly acknowledging that a basic, common fertility treatment is on their radar should absolutely terrify everyone. The nightmare is here, and stopping it will take more than a protest sign.