Speaker Johnson: Congress won’t take up IVF issue of embryo life

"I think it’s a states issue, and states will have to be handling that,” House Speaker Mike Johnson said.

House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) said Thursday that Congress won’t address the question of whether life begins at fertilization regarding in vitro fertilization (IVF), leaving the matter up to the states. 

On “CBS Mornings”, Johnson was asked by co-host Tony Dokoupil about whether destroying embryos is “murder,” referencing Alabama's enacting of a law on Wednesday that provides legal protection for IVF providers. The law was passed after the Alabama Supreme Court determined last month that frozen embryos enjoy the same rights as children. 

Johnson said that he supports access to IVF and that the question of whether destroying embryos is equivalent to murder is “something that we’ve got to grapple with.” 

“In some states, like in Louisiana, there’s a limit on the number of embryos that can be created because they’re sensitive to that issue,” he later added. “But it’s something that every state has to wrestle with, and I think Alabama has done a good job of it, of hitting it head-on early on.” 

Dokoupil said that states haven’t resolved “if life begins at fertilization and embryo is fertilization,” and pressed Johnson on that issue. 

“I think policymakers have to determine how to handle that,” Johnson responded. “We need to look at the ethics surrounding that issue, but it’s an important one. 

“Some of these issues and some of these questions are unprecedented, and so it takes a lot of thoughtful debate and careful consideration,” he continued. “But we do believe in the sanctity of life, and if you do believe that life begins at conception, it’s a really important question to wrestle with. It’s not one Congress has dealt with, and it won’t be. I think it’s a states issue, and states will have to be handling that.” 

The White House responded to Johnson’s comments on Thursday. 

“Tonight President Biden will stress to the country whose side he’s on, and congressional Republicans are already helping him make that case,” said White House spokesperson Andrew Bates, according to The Hill. “Speaker Johnson just said on live TV that we have to ‘grapple with’ the idea that IVF is murder.”