House Speaker Mike Johnson Says He Supports IVF. His Past Might Imply Otherwise.

Johnson has said that life begins "from the moment of fertilization," a statement that would appear to include frozen fertilized embryos.

Since Alabama’s Supreme Court decided to classify fertilized embryos as living children under state law earlier this month, Republican officials have been scrambling to prove to voters that they support their right to access in vitro fertilization treatments.

House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) came out with a statement Friday night throwing his support behind the process used by a growing number of Americans to conceive their children.

“I believe the life of every single child has inestimable dignity and value. That is why I support IVF treatment, which has been a blessing for many moms and dads who have struggled with fertility,” Johnson said.

He went on to “applaud” Alabama legislators for “immediately working to protect life and ensure that IVF treatment is available to families throughout the state.”

But a look back at how Johnson has talked about reproductive health care suggests a much more complicated picture driven by ultraconservative theology.

Like many other anti-abortion politicians, Johnson has repeatedly said that he thinks abortion should be banned because he values human life. At a congressional hearing in November 2021, Johnson touted an extreme definition of “life” when he spoke in favor of a six-week abortion ban then recently passed in Texas.

“As the National Right to Life Committee summarizes so well, when a woman is pregnant, science tells us that the new life she carries is a completely separate and fully new human being from the moment of fertilization,” Johnson said at the time. (As The 19th News’ Amanda Becker noted, the question of when life begins is more of a religious one.)

He went on to tell a hearing witness — a medical professional who performs abortions — that a fetus “is as distinct and unique a separate human being as I am from you.”

The Alabama Supreme Court had a strikingly similar take, writing in its majority opinion on the IVF case that “an unborn child is a genetically unique human being whose life begins at fertilization and ends at death.”

Thus, the court ruled, fertilized embryos that were accidentally destroyed at a cryogenic freezing facility are covered under the state’s Wrongful Death of a Minor Act. Destroying a fertilized embryo is, under state law, the same as destroying a living child, according to the state’s high court.

Its decision has prompted multiple Alabama fertility clinics to pause their IVF services. Legal questions have swirled around the fact that the process of IVF does not lead to all fertilized embryos being implanted in a human patient. Is destroying them homicide? For fertility clinics, is it worth the legal risk?

Former President Donald Trump has led a new charge among Republican lawmakers to show that they value IVF and will work to protect access to it; Trump argued that his party was invested in “the creation of strong, thriving, healthy American families.”

But House Republicans have already shown indifference to IVF.

Johnson’s name appears smack-dab in the middle of a list of 125 House Republicans co-sponsoring the Life at Conception Act, which was introduced in January 2023 as an anti-abortion bill after failing to pass earlier sessions of Congress.

The bill’s language does not include any exceptions for IVF.

An earlier version, from 2017, did — suggesting not just a mere oversight.

As currently written, the act would define “human person” and “human being” to include “each and every member of the species homo sapiens at all stages of life, including the moment of fertilization, cloning, or other moment at which an individual member of the human species comes into being.”

Johnson squirmed when faced with a question on his reproductive health care views back in November.

“I’m pro-life. I’ve said very clearly I’m a Bible-believing Christian. I believe in the sanctity of every single human life,” Johnson told Fox News host Shannon Bream that month.

She pressed him, asking whether he would vote against fertility treatments and access to contraception — which some religious conservatives also dislike — as alleged by a progressive political action committee opposed to his speakership.

“I don’t think so,” Johnson said. “I’m not sure what they’re talking about. I really don’t remember any of those measures, but I am personally pro-life.”

A “pro-life” lawmaker touting their religious views is not unusual. As the Louisiana Republican told a Baptist news outlet when he was first running for Congress in 2016, “My faith informs everything I do.” He has given no reason to doubt that his views have shifted, telling Fox News viewers last fall to simply “go pick up a Bible off your shelf” to understand his “worldview.”

But Johnson goes beyond the norm, because he appears to devalue the separation of church and state, calling it a “misnomer” in an interview in November.

“It’s not in the Constitution,” he said.

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