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Where do Arizona’s congressional Republicans stand on IVF?

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This week, lawmakers in Congress once again scrambled to avert a government shutdown, and negotiations opened with a Republican proposal that pushed for a national fetal personhood law — which nearly every GOP Representative from Arizona supported. 

On Wednesday, the Republican Study Committee released a budget plan that advanced more than three dozen anti-abortion bills. One of those was the Life at Conception Act, that bestows 14th Amendment protections on fetuses at every stage, effectively outlawing all abortions and putting in-vitro fertilization procedures and some types of birth control, such as emergency contraceptives, in jeopardy. 

And while the plan was ultimately shot down in favor of a bipartisan deal, it still serves as a look into GOP priorities, given that 80% of House Republicans sit on the influential committee that drafted it. Members from Arizona include Rep. Juan Ciscomani, Rep. Debbie Lesko, Rep. David Schwiekert and Rep. Paul Gosar. 

Ciscomani, the only member of the delegation to respond to a request for comment, told the Arizona Mirror that he supports IVF. The popular fertility treatment has recently become a focus of the 2024 election cycle, after an Alabama court determined frozen embryos are covered under wrongful death claims because of a state law that extended protections to the “unborn”. The ruling put Republicans across the country in the hot seat, as they moved to distance themselves from fetal personhood laws that have become a mainstay of the party.

Ciscomani said his membership in the Republican Study Committee isn’t an indication of his views on IVF. 

“With any large coalition in Washington, there are a wide array of, and sometimes conflicting, points of view,” he said, in an emailed statement. “The Republican Study Committee produces a number of commonsense provisions. However, I do not subscribe to every proposal they put out. What best reflects my perspectives are the votes I take, bills I introduced, and legislation I cosponsor.”

The freshman congressman, who represents voters in a swing district that spans Pima and Cochise county, added that he co-sponsored a resolution in February supporting IVF. Resolutions are non-binding statements for lawmakers to express their opinions and stances, but they don’t offer any legal protections. 

An attempt by Democrats in the U.S. Senate just weeks after the Alabama ruling to force a vote on legislation that would have guaranteed IVF access across the country was blocked by a single Republican. The vote required the approval of all 100 Senators. 

A renewed push for the legislation has emerged, and the House version of the bill, called the Access to Family Building Act, has one Republican willing to add his name to it. The only Arizonan to co-sponsor the House proposal so far has been Democratic Rep. Greg Stanton. 

By contrast, support among Arizona Republicans for the Life at Conception Act has been ample. Schweikert, who also sits on the Republican Study Committee that advanced the measure, co-sponsored its 2021 version. And Reps. Lesko, Andy Biggs, Paul Gosar and Elijah Crane all added their names to the most recent bill introduced last year

None responded to questions about their support of the bill or their views on IVF. 

Birth control at risk, too

Like IVF, access to birth control has become another flashpoint in the debate around reproductive rights. Some forms of emergency contraception, like ella, Plan B and IUDs have been the subject of proposed restrictions from Republican lawmakers who view them as abortifacients. 

Plan B and ella, commonly known as morning after pills, help prevent pregnancy by inhibiting ovulation and are typically taken within 3 to 5 days after unprotected sex. Copper IUDs, meanwhile, can sometimes be used as emergency contraception and have a spermicidal effect, drastically minimizing the likelihood of the implantation of a fertilized egg. 

But while research shows that emergency birth control is preventative, some GOP politicians remain unconvinced that the treatment doesn’t amount to abortion-like procedures. In 2022, Republican lawmakers in Idaho debated banning IUDs and Plan B, and Missouri Republicans in 2021 sought to bar Medicaid funding from paying for either.

Fetal personhood laws, like the one the Life at Conception Act seeks to enshrine, have been criticized by reproductive rights advocates as a way to ban emergency contraception. And in Arizona, GOP lawmakers at both the federal and state level have refused to support legislation that could safeguard access to such birth control. In 2022, a Right to Contraception Act failed in Congress. Biggs, Gosar, Lesko and Schwiekert voted against it. 

Arizona doesn’t currently have a fetal personhood law in effect, but Republican state lawmakers have made several attempts to indirectly pass one, including by allowing pregnant women to drive in the HOV lane or increasing the penalties against domestic violence perpetrators who harm a pregnant victim. 

A 2021 state law ascribing rights to fetuses in Arizona is still blocked by an injunction after a judge found it conflicted with Arizona’s personhood definition. But a conservative law firm challenging an injunction against a portion of that same law that prohibits abortions for the sole reason of a fetal genetic abnormality has indicated a willingness to defend the fetal personhood provision.

Earlier this year, Arizona Democrats attempted to address the lack of federal protections for contraception by introducing a state version of the Right to Contraception Act, but the proposal stagnated in the legislature. One top Republican senator dismissed that any danger exists against emergency contraception, and crudely implied that if women didn’t have sex, they wouldn’t need contraception at all. 

A last-ditch effort from state Democrats to force a vote on the bill was ultimately shot down by Republicans, who hold a one-vote majority.

The post Where do Arizona’s congressional Republicans stand on IVF? appeared first on Arizona Mirror.