Leaked audio from a meeting of anti-abortion activists in Tennessee – which currently has one of the strictest abortion bans in the country – has revealed that the anti-choice movement may start going after IVF and contraception in the next couple of years.
The audio, obtained by ProPublica, is from a webinar for GOP lawmakers held by Tennessee’s subset of the National Right to Life organization, as well as Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America.
During the conversation, state Rep. Susan Lynn (R) – who sponsored Tennessee’s abortion ban – asked what to do about in vitro fertilization (IVF), which many have worried will be the anti-choice movement’s next target.
In response to Lynn, the speakers on the call suggested waiting a little while before attacking IVF.
“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,” said Stephen Billy, vice president for state affairs at Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America. “But I don’t think that that’s the conversation that you need to have now.”
During the IVF process – which is used by some same-sex couples to have children – it’s common to fertilize more than one egg to maximize the chances of IVF treatments being successful. Once the person receiving IVF is pregnant, any extra fertilized eggs are usually discarded. As such, those who believe life begins at fertilization are likely against IVF, a process that many LGBTQ couples rely on to have children.
As Elizabeth Constance, a doctor at Omaha’s Heartland Center for Reproductive Medicine told The Washington Post in May, “There are concerns about whether there will be repercussions related to embryos that don’t survive in the lab. What about those put in the uterus and don’t implant? That’s all in a gray area.”
Shelbi Day, Chief Policy Officer at the nonprofit organization Family Equality, told LGBTQ Nation in June that “without the protections of Roe v. Wade, it is possible that state lawmakers may feel empowered to create barriers for people to access medical procedures like IVF – which is deeply troubling for LGBTQ+ people and anyone who needs access to IVF to expand their family.”
And as Cathryn Oakley, an attorney with the Human Rights Campaign, told NBC News, “If the law believes that human life begins at conception, that means those embryos in the petri dish are legally people. That would make IVF impossible to really function.”
And while the timeline is unclear, it seems IVF is definitely on the radar of anti-choice activists.
In the wake of the Supreme Court overturning Roe v. Wade, Tennessee has essentially completely outlawed abortion. The law focuses on consequences for doctors who perform abortions and will not prosecute pregnant people who seek them out. Its severe language makes performing an abortion a felony and has no exceptions for rape, incest, or even the life of the pregnant person.
The text states that doctors are allowed to violate the law and perform an abortion to save the parent’s life, but afterward the burden is on them to prove it was medically necessary to do so.
“The law will make the doctor second guess their medical training and expertise when choosing a treatment plan or risk a felony criminal conviction,” said Planned Parenthood of Tennessee and North Mississippi CEO Ashley Coffield when the law took effect. “Now, hospitals and lawyers will be weighing in on life and death scenarios.”