No Shock on Alabama Ruling: For Nikki Haley, Embryos Are Babies

By: Alex Trent | Published: Feb 29, 2024

GOP nominee hopeful and former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley gave recent comments in an NBC interview in support of the recent Alabama Supreme Court ruling that activists are speculating could restrict in vitro fertilization.

The issue of reproductive rights has been difficult for Republicans to navigate this election cycle, with some showing inconsistency on exactly what procedures should be viewed as permissible.

Alabama Supreme Court Ruling

According to NBC, on February 16, the Alabama Supreme Court published a ruling that said frozen embryos created through the process of in vitro fertilization (IVF) are considered children under state law.

The Alabama Supreme Court building viewed from the street.

Source: Michael Barera/Wikimedia

The effect of this ruling may threaten the entire procedure of in vitro fertilization, which may allow people to be sued for destroying an embryo and dissuade doctors in Alabama from participating in the procedure.


What Is IVF?

In vitro fertilization, or IVF, is a medical procedure intended to help couples struggling with reproductive infertility. To bypass reproductive issues, the IVF process involves the extraction of mature eggs from ovaries. These eggs are combined in a controlled, laboratory environment with collected sperm and then fertilized before being reintroduced into a uterus.

A woman working in an IVF laboratory.

Source: Galina Fomina/Wikimedia

The benefit of this process is that it can bypass some fertility issues related to sperm being unable to reach and successfully fertilize eggs during regular intercourse or other implantation methods.

Why Do Some People Consider Embryos to Be Babies?

People have different conceptions of when life is thought “to begin,” and although science can tell us a lot about reproduction, this is different from someone’s personal or religious beliefs.

A petri dish containing a culture of embryos.

Source: S.Y.M.B.I.O.N.T./Wikimedia

A common opinion held among some people is that life begins “at conception” or the point where the egg is fertilized by sperm. Under this definition, the IVF process is considered a conception, making the laboratory embryo a human baby.

Haley’s Comments

During an Interview with NBC, Nikki Haley responded to news of the Alabama Supreme Court decision, expressing her support. “Embryos, to me, are babies,” she said.

Nikki Haley speaks at a podium.

Source: Wikimedia

It’s unclear how supportive Haley would be for IVF restrictions if they started being implemented across the country, as many prominent conservatives have been previously in support of it.

“That’s How I Had My Son”

While Haley appeared to agree with the ruling, she also extolled the benefits of reproductive procedures, relating her own personal experience with the procedure.

Nikki Haley speaks with her hand raised at a conference.

Source: Gage Skidmore/Wikimedia

“I mean, I had artificial insemination, and that’s how I had my son. When you talk about an embryo, you are talking about, to me, that’s a life. And so I do see where that’s coming from when they talk about that,” she said. (via NBC)


Conservatives Are Confused on IVF

Typically, conservatives are in favor of creating families and encouraging people to have kids, but the official party line on IVF seems muddled.

A protestor holding a sign opposing the right to an abortion for women.

Source: Maria Oswalt/Unsplash

IVF is a procedure typically sought out by couples wanting to have more kids and start a family. If restrictions are placed on this procedure in the future, couples may be wary of undergoing it, resulting in fewer kids being born.


Mike Pence Supported IVF

One of the nation’s prominent conservatives, former Vice President Mike Pence, previously expressed support for IVF, despite being a fierce opponent of abortion. In his 2022 book, “So Help Me God,” Pence recounted his tale with IVF. His wife had struggled with fertility, which was only remedied with an IVF procedure.

Mike Pence speaks into a microphone on stage.

Source: Gage Skidmore/Wikimedia

“I fully support fertility treatments and I think they deserve the protection of the law,” Pence said. “They gave us great comfort in those long and challenging years that we struggled with infertility in our marriage.”


Consequences of the Ruling

The effects of this ruling are unclear at the immediate time, but activists are speculating that it could have a chilling effect on IVF and force doctors to stop performing and recommending it to struggling couples.

An empty room where IVF procedures are performed.

Source: Cloudnine Hospitals/Wikimedia

Alabama reportedly already has some of the strictest abortion laws in the United States, with the state enforcing a total abortion ban during all stages of pregnancy since 2022.


Population Crisis

As this news threatens to upend IVF in the state of Alabama, it is already undergoing a population and birth crisis. According to the CDC, Alabama had a fertility rate of only 1.77 in 2021. A rate of 2.0 is considered to be the minimum replacement rate, with a slightly higher number being preferred to counteract child and infant mortality.

A bee sitting atop a flower.

Source: Ram Kishor/Unsplash

This fertility rate being lower than replacement means that the resident population in Alabama is both gradually shrinking and growing older. These two problems will have huge consequences in the coming decades.


Women Under Attack

The Washington Post reported that many women are feeling afraid after the Alabama state Supreme Court decision. A Birmingham, Alabama, mother named AshLeigh Meyer Dunham said, “Women who actually know what happened, they feel under attack and almost powerless.”

Two women stand holding flowers toward the camera.

Source: Sam McNamara/Unsplash

Dunham had previously had success conceiving a child through in vitro fertilization and is a law firm partner whose firm specialized in assisted reproduction technology cases.


Consequences for Republicans

The tendency for prominent Republicans to have mixed messaging on reproductive health and procedures may cause them to lose support among the general public.

A red hat that says “Make America Great Again.”

Source: Natilyn Photography/Unsplash

According to Pew Research in 2023, 42% of US adults say that they or someone else they know have used fertility treatments to have a baby. In that survey, 61% of US adults said they think health insurance should cover fertility treatments, including things like artificial insemination and in vitro fertilization.