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RFK Jr.’s Running Mate Is a Fierce Critic of IVF

Nicole Shanahan, Robert F. Kennedy Jr.’s presidential running mate, is not only one of the most prominent critics of in vitro fertilization this election cycle — she has made it one of her life missions to change the narrative around the treatment.

As highlighted by Politico, Shanahan has called IVF “one of the biggest lies that’s being told about women’s health today,” according to an interview published in February by the Australian Financial Review.

Shanahan, a Silicon Valley lawyer and ex-wife of Google co-founder Sergey Brin, has publicly criticized the fertility industry for years through her work as a philanthropist. The couple, who finalized their divorce in 2023, had gone through several unsuccessful rounds of IVF before conceiving a child together through natural means, an experience that left Shanahan feeling jilted by what was supposed to be a helpful process.

“I believe IVF is sold irresponsibly, and my own experience with natural childbirth has led me to understand that the fertility industry is deeply flawed,” she wrote for People magazine in 2022.

Shanahan is the founder of the Bia-Echo Foundation, a nonprofit which funds research for “reproductive longevity and equality,” and is a major donor of the Buck Institute for Research on Aging, giving $6 million in seed funding in 2018.

“Many of the IVF clinics are financially incentivized to offer you egg freezing and IVF and not incentivized to offer you other fertility services,” she told The New Yorker last year.

IVF has become a political flashpoint since the Alabama Supreme Court ruled that fertilized embryos should be treated as children under the law. The decision was met with widespread backlash, prompting Alabama lawmakers to hastily pass a carveout bill protecting IVF services in the state. Anger over the decision does not appear to have died down, however, and it is being credited as a major factor in helping Democrat Marilyn Lands flip a deep-red Alabama state legislature seat this week.

In 2021, IVF was used to conceive over 86,000 infants born that year in the United States, approximately 2 percent of all births, according to the Department of Health and Human Services.

“Reasonable people could have concerns with bioethics, or a lot of us have concerns with how a lot of science is marketed and mass produced, right?” Mini Timmaraju, president of Reproductive Freedom for All, told Politico. “I’m sure there’s a tiny little kernel and rationale behind all of this. But at the end of the day, IVF has been a long-established reproductive health technology, and Nicole Shanahan, bless her, is not a medical expert.”

In a statement to Rolling Stone, Shanahan said she has spent the past five years funding research into environmental factors that impact women’s reproductive health because she felt they had gone largely ignored.

“IVF is a very expensive for-profit business, and many of these clinics are owned by private equity firms that are not invested in the underlying health of women,” Shanahan said. “What I care about is informed consent, and not letting corporations take advantage of us.”

Shanahan is far from the only woman to criticize IVF after undergoing it, with some fertility doctors describing the process as an “expensive lottery ticket” that is not a guarantee. “If you win, you get the best payout ever: You get a child. But if you don’t win, you feel scammed,” Dr. Emily Goulet told NBC News in 2019.

Tanya Selvaratnam, an activist and author of “The Big Lie: Motherhood, Feminism and the Reality of the Biological Clock,” told Rolling Stone in an email that while fertility treatments have led to “many heartwarming miraculous stories,” women and families need to be properly informed of the process, costs, risks, and underlying condition interactions.

“Private fertility doctors and clinics, when they are insidious, will prey on people’s deep desire to have children,” she wrote. “The fertility industry generates billions of dollars in revenue.”

At a Buck Institute event in 2019, Shanahan said that she went through three failed attempts at creating an embryo over the course of “three dozen” visits to IVF clinics across the San Francisco Bay Area, according to the Marin Independent Journal.

“Personally, I find it crazy that my reproductive organs are considered geriatric long before any other organ even begins to show the slightest decline,’ Shanahan said at the event. “I find it even crazier that we have conceded to this narrative for half of the human species.”

RFK Jr. has not taken a public stance on the issue.

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