Trump says he strongly supports IVF after Alabama court ruling puts new pressure on Republicans

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COLUMBIA, S.C. — Former President Donald Trump said Friday that he would “strongly support the availability of IVF” and called on lawmakers in Alabama to preserve access to the treatment. It was his first comment since an Alabama Supreme Court ruling that led some providers in the state to suspend their in vitro fertilization programs and has left Republicans divided over the issue.

Trump, in a post on his Truth Social network, said: “Under my leadership, the Republican Party will always support the creation of strong, thriving, healthy American families. We want to make it easier for mothers and fathers to have babies, not harder!”

The comments come after a ruling by the all-Republican Alabama Supreme Court, among the nation’s most conservative judicial panels, that frozen embryos can be considered children under state law. Since then, some Alabama clinics and hospitals, including the University of Alabama at Birmingham health system, have announced pauses on IVF services.

The fallout has deepened divisions among conservatives over abortion and other reproductive services in a campaign year already fraught with debates over whether Republicans should pursue national abortion limits after the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2022 ruling that overturned the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortion nationwide. Trump and former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley, his last remaining major opponent for the 2024 nomination, have both cautioned against an absolute national ban.

As president, Trump nominated three of the justices who overturned Roe and paved the way for state lawmakers across the country to impose dramatic restrictions on access to abortion.

Trump and Haley are campaigning Friday ahead of Saturday’s South Carolina Republican presidential primary, in which the former president is the overwhelming favorite, despite Haley having been twice elected South Carolina governor. The Alabama decision almost certainly will not change GOP primary dynamics, but the conversation carries important implications for the general election as Republicans try to avoid being tagged by Democrats as too extreme on reproductive policy.

Haley said Thursday, after the Alabama ruling, that she views human embryos, which are the earliest form of development after fertilization, as “babies.” But she also said she disagrees with the Alabama court and said the state’s legislators should “look at the law.” Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey and Republican legislative leaders had already started that conservation before the GOP’s presidential candidates weighed in.

In his social media post, Trump steered clear of declaring embryos to be distinct humans worthy of legal protection. His statement focused instead on the practical considerations for would-be parents trying to start families. IVF is typically a months-long process for couples or women who have struggled to conceive and maintain a viable pregnancy naturally. The treatments can cost patients tens of thousands of dollars, with no assurances that an implanted embryo will become a viable pregnancy and end with a healthy child. “I’m pro-family,” Donald Trump Jr. said Friday in Charleston, campaigning on his father’s behalf not long before the elder Trump issued his statement. “Families should do what they want to be able to make families.”

Trump Jr. said he had not discussed the specifics with his father since the Alabama ruling but said he and his father both know families who have used IVF as a path to having children.

The elder Trump and Haley have found themselves ensnared by abortion and reproductive politics already in the 2024 campaign.

Trump has taken credit for the ruling overturning Roe but also warned Republicans about going too far adopting statutory restrictions on abortions, lest the party lose support from moderate voters. Polling has shown for years that most Americans, even many who think of themselves as “pro-life,” want to preserve some access to the procedure.

Nonetheless, anti-abortion advocates have suggested courts should go further to rule embryos are children, though that would sharply ramp up restrictions on treatments like IVF. Specifically, the Alabama ruling raises questions about what would become of frozen embryos that are not used in implantation procedures, what financial responsibility patients might have to maintain them if they could not legally be destroyed and what civil and even criminal liabilities medical providers could face throughout the process.

As she campaigned Friday in Moncks Corner, South Carolina, Haley sidestepped the IVF conversation. She stuck to her argument that Trump, who has been indicted four times, is too big a risk for Republicans to nominate again. She repeated her pledge to stay in the primary fight at least until the March 5 Super Tuesday primaries, and she again hammered Trump for cozying up to Russian President Vladimir Putin.

“Trump is siding with a dictator who kills his political opponents,” she said, referring to Russian dissident Alexei Navalny, who died recently in an Arctic prison camp after being jailed by Putin’s Kremlin government.

Haley’s attacks, however, have yet to persuade enough Republican primary voters, with Trump running up wide margins in Iowa, New Hampshire and Nevada. Even in South Carolina, where Haley was once the state’s most powerful, popular Republican figure, she has had trouble winning over conservatives.

Jim Schurtz, a 72-year-old retired engineer who was waiting to hear Trump on Friday in Rock Hill, South Carolina, went so far as to say Haley had been “a terrible governor.” Sporting a red Trump hat with a giant “T” and “2024” across the top, he said he doesn’t think Haley would be elected governor if she had to run again.

“All she does is put Trump down,” Schurtz said. —- Meg Kinnard contributed from Charleston. Pollard reported from Moncks Corner, South Carolina. Price reported from Rock Hill, South Carolina. Barrow reported from New York.

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