A second Trump term could lead to abortion and IVF bans

A second Trump term could lead to abortion and IVF bans

Republican presidential candidate former President Donald Trump speaks at a campaign event in Grand Rapids, Mich., Tuesday, April 2, 2024. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

By Isabel Soisson

April 2, 2024

With the 2024 presidential election on the horizon, Republican nominee and former president Donald Trump has been ramping up his public appearances and doubling down on his opposition to reproductive rights. 

Let’s take a look.

Trump is ‘proud’ to have helped ‘kill’ Roe v. Wade

Trump has repeatedly bragged about his role in the Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe v. Wade, which guaranteed the constitutional right to an abortion for nearly five decades. In May 2023, he embraced his role in appointing Supreme Court justices that voted to overturn the legislation. 

“After 50 years of failure, with nobody coming even close, I was able to kill Roe v. Wade, much to the ‘shock’ of everyone,” he said. “Without me there would be no six weeks, 10 weeks, 15 weeks, or whatever is finally agreed to. Without me, the pro-life movement would have just kept losing.”  

In Sept. 2023, he again took credit for the reversal in a post on Truth Social. 

“For 52 years, people talked, spent vast amounts of money, but couldn’t get the job done,” the former president wrote. “I got the job done! Thanks to the three great Supreme Court justices I appointed, this issue has been returned to the states, where all legal scholars, on both sides, felt it should be.”

In January, Trump appeared on a Fox News Town Hall and said he was “proud” of his role in the overturning of Roe.

“For 54 years, they were trying to get Roe v. Wade terminated, and I did it, and I’m proud to have done it,” the former president said. “Nobody else was going to get that done but me, and we did it, and we did something that was a miracle.”

(It was 49 years between the Supreme Court’s 1973 Roe decision and its decision repealing Roe in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization in 2022.) 

The devastating consequences of Roe’s repeal

The reversal of Roe has led to disastrous consequences for women and families across the country, as overturning the landmark decision once again allowed states to ban abortion outright. 

Fourteen states have banned abortion in virtually all circumstances, while seven others have imposed severe restrictions, such as bans on abortion after six weeks of pregnancy, which is before many women even know they’re pregnant.

In Virginia, abortion is currently legal until fetal viability, which is usually around 23-24 weeks of pregnancy. 

A study published earlier this year in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that there have been nearly 65,000 pregnancies caused by rape in states with abortion bans since the US Supreme Court’s decision in 2022. 

There were 14 states included in this study. Texas is estimated to have the highest amount of rape-caused pregnancies at 26,313—more than four times greater than the second state on the list, Missouri. 

Between July 1, 2022 and Jan. 1, 2024, researchers estimate that 519,981 rapes occurred in these states. Only about 9% of the pregnancies that resulted from these rapes occurred in states with bans that include exceptions for rape—which, even when they exist, can be extremely difficult to qualify for.

Another study published in May 2023 found that the reversal of Roe v. Wade has not only led to disastrous consequences for women seeking abortions, but for women seeking routine reproductive care as well. That study found that women have suffered through ectopic pregnancies, miscarriages, fetal anomalies, and other complications in a post-Roe world due to restrictive abortion bans. 

A second Trump term could lead to a nationwide abortion ban

Since the repeal of Roe, Republicans have repeatedly sought to pass a nationwide abortion ban and to restrict access to abortion care. In recent months, Trump himself has suggested he might back a 15-week nationwide abortion ban.

“The number of weeks now, people are agreeing on 15, and I’m thinking in terms of that, and it’ll come out to something that’s very reasonable. But people are really, even hard-liners are agreeing, seems to be, 15 weeks seems to be a number that people are agreeing at. But I’ll make that announcement at the appropriate time,” Trump said in a March radio interview with “Sid & Friends in the Morning.”

The US Supreme Court also heard a case last week that could threaten the availability of the abortion medication mifepristone, which along with another drug, misoprostol, is approved through 10 weeks of pregnancy and is used in more than half of abortions nationwide.

A far-right conservative Christian group, the Alliance Defending Freedom, is seeking to revoke the FDA’s 2000 approval of mifepristone, or at minimum, severely restrict access to it. If the court opts to restrict or ban access to the medication, it would dramatically restrict access to abortion, even in states where it remains legal.

Notably, the decision that sparked this court case in the first place, was issued by a Trump appointee: US District Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk. 

Still, the former president’s ties to the anti-abortion movement go even deeper.

A group of Trump-aligned conservative organizations and activists have crafted an expansive blueprint that lays out in detail how they intend to leverage virtually every arm, tool, and agency of the federal government to attack abortion access, including by banning and criminalizing access to abortion medication. That plan—which is more than 900 pages long—includes ways to make abortion inaccessible without actually passing any new laws at all.

The theory: Trump could replace nonpolitical staff in government agencies with right-wing loyalists to erode abortion rights, including by hiring staff at the US Food and Drug Administration to reject medical science and reverse its approval of all abortion medication.

Project 2025, as the plan has been called, also calls for the US Department of Justice to start enforcing the Comstock Act of 1873. The old law bans the mailing of “anything designed, adapted, or intended for producing abortion,” which could include medical instruments.

Another key part of the plan involves ending insurance coverage for reproductive care —including by blocking the Department of Veterans Affairs from offering abortions to veterans, prohibiting the disbursement of Medicaid funds to states that require insurers to cover abortions, and cutting off funding to hospitals that perform abortions, even to save the life of the mother.

IVF in the crosshairs

Conservatives have targeted other areas of family planning and family life as well. 

In February, the Alabama Supreme Court ruled that frozen embryos are children and that those who destroy them can be held liable for wrongful death, an unprecedented decision that could have national consequences for IVF treatment, the most successful form of infertility treatment which is responsible for about 2% of all births in the US.

In a 7-1 ruling that has been widely criticized, the justices—all of whom are Republicans—found that frozen embryos in test tubes are children and they are therefore covered under the state’s Wrongful Death of a Minor law, which allows parents to sue for punitive damages when their child dies.

The state’s government has since passed a law protecting IVF patients and providers from criminal liability, though they did not address the underlying issue of whether embryos were considered people and right-wing organizations continue to make clear they want to restrict IVF access.

The Heritage Foundation, the right-wing think-tank responsible for spearheading Project 2025, has been a staunch anti-IVF voice for years. Heritage research associate Emma Waters specifically denounced IVF procedures and other “reproductive technologies” in a column posted to Heritage’s website in March. 

Waters also lays out several “preliminary policy recommendations” for Congress to implement. The first recommends that Congress “impose a standard of care in IVF clinics sufficient to prevent the wanton or careless destruction of embryonic human beings.” This implies that the federal government should already consider embryos to be “human beings.”

Many of the other policy recommendations that Waters’ lays out in her column are meant to heighten the barrier of entry to participating in IVF procedures, the same way that anti-abortion lawmakers have targeted abortion providers by imposing needless and scientifically dubious restrictions on them.

Heritage isn’t the only organization fear-mongering when it comes to IVF. Former Vice President Mike Pence’s group Advancing American Freedom, and the Southern Baptist Convention’s public advocacy-focused Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission have both been working behind the scenes to educate Republican lawmakers about their “ethical concerns” regarding IVF.

Trump claimed last month that he “strongly supports” the availability of IVF, and added that “the Republican Party should always be on the side of the Miracle of Life.”

But while Trump was in the White House, he and his administration praised, appointed, and worked with far-right conservatives who have likened the IVF process to murder.

Trump hosted Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Tom Parker, who wrote the IVF ruling, twice: once during his 2016 presidential campaign, and once in 2018 at the White House. 

Tim Wildmon, president of the American Family Association, an extreme anti-abortion organization that last month opposed a Mississippi bill aimed at protecting IVF, served on the Trump administration’s faith advisory council. Trump also put Sarah Pitlyk, a woman who has spent most of her law career attacking assisted reproductive technologies, such as IVF and surrogacy, on a shortlist for Supreme Court nominees before ultimately appointing Justice Amy Coney Barrett.

Pitlyk has been deemed “not qualified” by the American Bar Association, and Barrett, in addition to being one of the justices who helped overturn Roe, has publicly supported an anti-abortion group that believes IVF should be criminalized.

Trump’s long anti-abortion record has drawn intense scrutiny from Democrats, including President Joe Biden, Trump’s opponent in November.

In January, Biden said that “it was Donald Trump and his Supreme Court who ripped aways the freedoms of women in America” and added that he, along with Kamala Harris, and the American people “will restore those rights.”

  • Isabel Soisson

    Isabel Soisson is a multimedia journalist who has worked at WPMT FOX43 TV in Harrisburg, along with serving various roles at CNBC, NBC News, Philadelphia Magazine, and Philadelphia Style Magazine.

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