One Loud GOP Congressman Is Spoiling His Party’s Messaging On IVF

Republicans have been screaming from rooftops in recent weeks about how much they support in vitro fertilization and its availability nationwide, but one GOP congressman is threatening to blow up their strategy.

Rep. Matt Rosendale (R-Mont.) this week pushed an amendment to a defense appropriations bill that would have banned funding for IVF, which he has called “morally wrong,” for defense personnel. He also put up anti-IVF posters outside his congressional office.

“My heart aches for folks who aren’t able to conceive children naturally,” Rosendale told HuffPost. “The problem is that this procedure produces somewhere in the neighborhood of 1.3 million eggs a year, of which about 800,000 of them are fertilized and only somewhere in the neighborhood of 100,000 are being implanted and utilized. They come to fruition as children — full-grown birth children.”

Allowing federal funding for IVF, Rosendale claimed, amounts to “promoting an industry that literally kills more children than Planned Parenthood each year.”

Rather than allow a vote on Rosendale’s measure to put themselves on the record as supporters of IVF, Republicans omitted it from the list of defense bill amendments that will receive floor votes.

Republican leaders have said they don’t think Congress needs to act on IVF, but Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) pointed to Rosendale’s comments as evidence that the GOP is trying to do away with it.

“Watch what they do, not what they say,” Schumer said. “IVF is very much under threat. Democrats will not stop fighting to protect IVF access.”

In vitro fertilization became a massive political issue this year after the Alabama Supreme Court ruled in February that frozen embryos are children, jeopardizing the state’s IVF industry, alarming prospective parents and prompting former President Donald Trump to promise he would “strongly support the availability of IVF.” The Alabama ruling followed from the Supreme Court’s 2022 decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, the precedent that made abortion a federal right.

Republicans have struggled to coalesce behind a coherent position on the matter given their fierce opposition to abortion and belief in fetal personhood. While most in the GOP support IVF, many of their arguments against abortion, which include a stance that life begins when an egg is fertilized, would logically call for also eliminating or curtailing IVF services, which usually entails the destruction or disposal of unused fertilized eggs.

Earlier this month, Senate Republicans blocked legislation in the Senate that would have guaranteed access to IVF services across the country, calling it unnecessary and a political show vote. Democrats brought the bill to the floor to highlight the contrast between the two parties on reproductive rights ahead of the November elections.

“There’s not a problem. There’s no restrictions on IVF, nor should there be,” Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) said, explaining the GOP’s position on the matter.

Instead, all 49 Senate Republicans signed a statement vowing to “strongly support continued nationwide access to” in vitro fertilization. Sens. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and Katie Britt (R-Ala.) also sought to pass a bill that would revoke Medicaid funding to any state that enacts an outright ban on access to IVF. (Democrats blocked that measure, calling it insufficient.)

The National Republican Senatorial Committee, the party’s campaign arm, sent out a memo to its candidates instructing them to publicly defend IVF treatments, in yet another example of the way Republicans have been playing defense on an issue that is broadly popular with voters. The NRSC is chaired by Sen. Steve Daines, the other Republican elected to represent Montana in Washington, alongside Rosendale.

Asked Thursday about his fellow Montanan’s public opposition to IVF, a Daines spokesperson told HuffPost the senator “supports IVF access.”

Rosendale, a conservative hard-liner, briefly ran for Senate in Montana before dropping out of the race after pressure from GOP leaders who feared that a contested primary would harm their effort to oust the state’s incumbent Democratic Sen. Jon Tester.

The congressman announced in March he would not run for reelection in the House, citing “false and defamatory rumors,” an apparent reference to an unproven allegation by former Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.) that he got a staffer pregnant. A spokesperson for Rosendale at the time called the allegation “100% false and defamatory.”

Asked about Republican support for IVF, Rosendale said he’s trying to teach his colleagues about the procedure.

“Many people are just becoming aware of the total number of embryos that are being created and what happens to ones that are implanted,” Rosendale said. “And so this is a very, very important educational process that we’re going through to make sure people are aware that essentially, there’s roughly 700,000 children that are being destroyed each year.”

Rosendale may be in the minority on the issue in the House, but he isn’t the only conservative targeting IVF. Earlier this month, the Southern Baptist Convention, the largest Protestant denomination in the U.S., voted to condemn the use of in vitro fertilization.