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New ad campaign from Democrats targets vulnerable Republicans over IVF

The DCCC will run billboards targeting Republicans in swing districts for their support of the Life At Conception Act.
DCCC
The DCCC will run billboards targeting Republicans in swing districts for their support of the Life At Conception Act.

House Democrats' campaign committee is targeting vulnerable Republicans who supported a bill that could have threatened access to in-vitro fertilization with a new billboard campaign previewed exclusively for NPR.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee is looking to capitalize on ongoing tension among Republicans over how to reconcile party messaging on abortion with public support for protecting IVF treatments. The campaign is launching static, digital and mobile billboards calling out Republicans in eight swing districts for their support of the Life At Conception Act, a bill that would have granted constitutional protection to embryos at "the moment of fertilization." If enacted, that legislation could have threatened access to IVF, during which embryos are often discarded or stored for years.

In a statement to NPR, DCCC spokesperson Justin Chermol said: "House Republicans will stop at nothing — including outlawing in vitro fertilization — to reach their ultimate goal: banning abortion and restricting reproductive rights nationwide. We will not let Americans forget that extreme House Republicans, including those who pretend to be moderates, continue to put politics over families by championing out-of-touch legislation that chips away at freedom."

The Life at Conception Act had more than 160 Republican cosponsors in the House before the Supreme Court struck down the right to an abortion in 2022. 126 Republicans signed onto a version of the bill introduced in 2023.

After the Alabama Supreme Court ruled in February that embryos are children under the law, throwing fertility clinics and patients in the state into limbo, the bill became a political liability for some Republicans who say they support IVF access.

The ads will be displayed in districts represented by Republican Reps. David Schweikert (AZ-01), Mike Garcia (CA-27), Michelle Steel (CA-45), Marianette Miller-Meeks (IA-01), Don Bacon (NE-02), and Scott Perry (PA-10). The campaign will also target two former members who are running to return to Congress: Yvette Herrell in New Mexico and Marya Flores in Texas.

Michelle Steel, who has publicly discussed her experience using IVF, took her name off the bill after Alabama's court ruling. Don Bacon recently told NPR that he didn't sign onto the bill in 2023 over concerns that the language would be used to challenge IVF.

Republicans have largely worked to distance themselves from the Alabama decision and voice their support for the procedure. The head of the House Republicans' campaign arm has accused Democrats of "exploiting" the issue for "political gain." Rep. Richard Hudson, R-N.C., said he and his wife used IVF to have a child.

"Democrats are lying about our position," Hudson told Punchbowl News. said. "I'm just telling my candidates and members: 'Talk about what you believe. Don't let them define you.'"

Copyright 2024 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

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Lexie Schapitl is a production assistant with NPR's Washington Desk, where she produces radio pieces and digital content. She also reports from the field and assists with production of the NPR Politics Podcast.