Mike Johnson Suggests IVF Is Too Complicated to Protect: ‘It’s a Brave New World’

The House Speaker, who has supported legislation that states life begins at conception, has declined to say whether IVF and the destruction of embryos constitute murder.

Mike Johnson Suggests IVF Is Too Complicated to Protect: ‘It’s a Brave New World’

Ever since the Alabama Supreme Court ruled frozen embryos are “children,” plunging access to IVF—which requires routine destruction of embryos—into chaos across the state, anti-abortion politicians across the country are being taken to task over their batshit policy position that “life begins at conception.” On Thursday, in contrast with Democrats who brought IVF patients to the State of the Union address, House Speaker Mike Johnson was on CBS, hedging yet again on his stance about the fertility technology. When asked whether he believes the destruction of embryos as part of the IVF process is murder, given Johnson’s position that life begins at conception, he replied, “It’s something that we’ve got to grapple with. It’s a brave new world. IVF’s only been invented, I think, in the early ’70s.”

Of course, as the New Republic points out, the 1970s were a whole half-century ago. You’d think that’d be more than enough time for Johnson to come to some sort of understanding of whether this very common fertility technology is or is not murder. But alas, the whole point of Johnson’s “brave new world” bullshit is to never give a real answer by pretending this is all somehow just too complicated. It’s an effort to simultaneously pacify anti-abortion extremists and avoid coming off as an extremist to the general public. It’s about not saying the quiet part out loud, which is that abortion bans and “life begins at conception” nonsense inevitably lead to the policing of IVF, birth control, and the full range of reproductive decisions.

In the same Thursday interview, Johnson maintained that legislators should continue to look more closely at IVF and denied that Congress and the federal government should be legislating the issue. This—the notion that IVF and our rights to the full range of reproductive care should be left up to the states—should terrify all of us, by the way, if for no other reason than what we’ve already seen happen in Alabama recently. “If you do believe that life begins at conception, it’s a really important question to wrestle with,” Johnson said. “It’s not one Congress has dealt with. It won’t be. I think it’s a states’ issue and states will have to be handling that.”

Johnson, who testified at a 2021 hearing for Texas’ abortion ban that “life begins at conception,” is one of over 100 House Republicans who co-sponsored the “Life at Conception Act” in 2023. In November, shortly after he was elected House Speaker, Johnson was asked about his support for the bill and whether it could be interpreted as opposition to IVF and other fertility treatments. In response, he pretended to not know what Fox News’ Shannon Bream was talking about. “I really don’t remember any of those measures, but I am personally pro-life,” he said.

On Wednesday night, Alabama legislators passed a bipartisan bill to shield IVF providers from criminal and civil liability and Gov. Kay Ivey (R) immediately signed the bill. But Alabama Republicans’ IVF bill—which legal experts have warned isn’t enough to fully protect IVF, given the state Supreme Court ruling and state Constitutional amendment still stand—presents an outlier among Republican lawmakers and the anti-abortion movement. Top anti-abortion organizations including Live Action, Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America, Students for Life, and March for Life wrote a letter to Ivey asking for her to veto it and describing IVF as “not a morally neutral issue.” Just earlier this week, Tennessee Republicans blocked a bill to offer similar IVF protections from even passing out of committee, arguing the bill would weaken Tennessee’s total abortion ban—thus giving away the game that IVF and abortion are inextricably linked in their extremist, fetal personhood policy agenda. And last week, U.S. Senate Republicans blocked a bill that would create federal protections for IVF.

As a result of the Alabama court ruling, fertility clinics in the state immediately paused IVF services fearing costly lawsuits that could bankrupt them; embryo transportation services also paused their operations in Alabama, preventing IVF patients in the state from moving their embryos to different states. While at least two clinics have said they plan to resume services in light of the bill Ivey signed this week, other clinics are still weighing their options. In the absence of federal protections, any state with policies that recognize life begins at conception is vulnerable to similar threats to fertility technology—and our very own House Speaker seems determined to make that happen.

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