Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations
Politically Speaking is WVXU Senior Political Analyst Howard Wilkinson's column that examines the world of politics and how it shapes the world around us.

Analysis: Ohio GOP Senate candidates see no contradiction in supporting IVF, opposing Issue 1

 a large white building with columns
Kim Chandler
The exterior of the Alabama Supreme Court building in Montgomery, Ala., is shown Tuesday, Feb. 20, 2024. The Alabama Supreme Court ruled, Friday, Feb. 16, 2024, that frozen embryos can be considered children under state law, a ruling critics said could have sweeping implications for fertility treatments. The decision was issued in a pair of wrongful death cases brought by three couples who had frozen embryos destroyed in an accident at a fertility clinic.

Ohio's three Republican U.S. Senate candidates in the March 19 primary election — Frank LaRose, Bernie Moreno and Matt Dolan — don't have to be told twice when they get marching orders from Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.

When McConnell says jump, their only question is "how high?"

McConnell, through his National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC), told GOP Senate candidates across the country last Friday they need to stay clear of an Alabama Supreme Court decision that frozen embryos are to be considered human beings.

The ruling drew an outcry all over the country, from Democrats and Republicans alike, who see it as an attack on in-vitro fertilization (IVF), a standard fertility treatment for those trying, without success, to start families.

In a memo obtained by NPR, the NRSC's Executive Director Jason Thieman told GOP candidates they are to make it clear to voters in their states that they disagree with the Alabama Supreme Court.

And why?

Because the memo outlines polling done for the NRSC showing that an incredible 85% of those surveyed support increased access to IVF.

ANALYSIS: Anti-abortion rights groups tried to change the subject on Issue 1. They failed

"Among conservative circles, including pro-life and Evangelicals, support for IVF is robust (78% and 83% respectively)," the NRSC memo said.

Dolan, LaRose and Moreno didn't let any moss grow under their feet, quickly issuing statements saying they support, completely and without reservation, IVF as a means of fertility treatment.

Democrats and others, though, pointed out, correctly, that all three opposed Issue 1 last fall — the reproductive rights amendment that was passed overwhelmingly by Ohio voters.

That amendment says clearly that any Ohioan is allowed to "make and carry out one's own reproductive decisions, including, but not limited to" decisions about abortion, contraception, miscarriage care, and fertility treatment. 

Here's what the three Ohio GOP Senate candidates had to say after the NRSC warning:

Frank LaRose, the current Ohio Secretary of State, said that "for America to be strong we must nurture families and support family formation. Expanding access to IVF, fertility treatments, and pregnancy centers are an essential part of that. But we must also create the circumstances for families to succeed by fixing our broken economy so parents aren't struggling each month to provide for their children."

Moreno posted his opinion on X, saying "my goal is to promote a culture of life, IVF is a vital tool for families that struggle with infertility. We have a crisis in this country of people not having enough kids at a replacement level. I'm in favor of anything that promotes people having babies & strong families."

Dolan weighed in as well:

"Society needs more loving and stable families, not less. IVF and fertility-related services are a blessing for those seeking to have children. That's why I have worked in the Legislature to support policy-making efforts that expand support for pregnancy centers and families in Ohio."

One of these three will win the primary, obviously; and will face Democratic incumbent Sherrod Brown in a Senate race that could well be ground zero in the battle for control of the Senate.

RELATED: What does Ohio's Issue 1 say on miscarriage care and other reproductive rights?

So it was not surprising that Brown's campaign weighed in on the subject of IVF and his would-be opponents.

"Women should have the ability and right to have a family on their own terms and that includes having access to fertility treatments like IVF," Brown wrote on X. "Bernie Moreno, Frank LaRose, and Matt Dolan have already made their position on this issue clear: they opposed Issue 1 and now want to overrule the majority of Ohioans who supported it — no memo from Mitch McConnell can change that."

Dolan campaign strategist Christopher Maloney told WVXU there is no contradiction in opposing Issue 1 and supporting IVF.

"Issue 1 allowed an abortion at any time during a pregnancy," Maloney said. "It also denied parents the right to be involved when their child is making the decision to receive an abortion. Matt was clear when he said whether you're pro-life or pro-choice, Issue 1 was too extreme for Ohio."

(Fact check: Issue 1 in no way denies parents the right to be involved if their child may be considering abortion. You can read the amendment language online.)

Reagan McCarthy, communications director of Moreno's campaign, answered the question of a contradiction very bluntly:

"No. And it's dishonest to suggest otherwise."

LaRose's has yet to respond to the Democrats suggesting the GOP Senate candidates are contradicting themselves.

RELATED: See how each Ohio county voted on Issue 1

Regardless, Mitch McConnell was able, in short order, to get his Senate candidates on the right side of IVF.

But there is no way for McConnell to fix this:

His Senate nominee, whoever that might be, opposed a reproductive rights amendment passed by 57% of Ohio voters.

Howard Wilkinson is in his 50th year of covering politics on the local, state and national levels.