Such is the state of the Republican Party that only eight of its 210 House members voted yes on a bill to protect the right to contraceptives. We’re talking birth control.
Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, Republican of Washington, denounced the bill as a “Trojan Horse for more abortions.”
Start with the obvious. Contraceptives prevent the unwanted pregnancies that lead to abortions. Also, the number of abortions in this country has steadily declined over the last 40 years, the reason being increased contraceptive use.
Other Republicans complained that Democrats pushed the birth control protection bill just for show. After all, no state currently bans contraceptives. One might agree, except that Justice Clarence Thomas just wrote that the thinking behind the Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe v. Wade could apply to contraceptives as well.
Some have opposed Roe on the grounds that Congress, not the courts, should have enshrined any national right to abortion. Well, that’s the approach just taken by the Democrat-controlled House concerning contraceptives. It passed a law guaranteeing a right to birth control.
Since Republicans are going down that path, one must ask, “What about embryos?” As a law professor, Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett signed a statement that life began at fertilization. An embryo is a fertilized egg.
Fertility clinics discard thousands upon thousands of abandoned embryos every year. That’s because a single round of in vitro fertilization treatment typically involves collecting 10 or more eggs with only one or two being implanted in the mother. Many countries actually require that these surplus embryos be destroyed after a certain period.
Shouldn’t states declaring embryos to be people require the clinics to preserve all unused embryos or close down? The cost of storing frozen embryos can exceed $1,000 a year.
In the opinion overturning Roe, Justice Samuel Alito wrote that abortion destroys “potential life” and the life of an “unborn human being.” Foes of contraception make the same argument, that sperm and eggs are potential life, even before they meet.
Then there is embryonic stem cell research, which holds great promise for defeating such medical scourges as Alzheimer’s and heart disease. The procedures require destroying embryos (many of them donated by IVF patients who didn’t need them).
Thanks to a new embryonic stem cell-derived therapy, a man ravaged by formerly incurable Type 1 diabetes seems to have been cured of this terrible condition. The overjoyed 57-year-old patient, Brian Shelton of Ohio, exclaimed: “This is a whole new life. It’s like a miracle.”
One of the developers was Dr. Doug Melton. In 2001, Melton had to cut his lab’s ties to Harvard University after President George W. Bush barred federal funding for research involving the destruction of embryos. Fortunately for humankind, private money was found to help Melton establish a separate lab.
By the way, Bush never did anything about the IVF clinics that were discarding unused embryos. But in 2005, he put on a bizarre show at one of them where he said, “There is no such thing as a spare embryo.” He noted that 81 embryos had already been “adopted” under a special program run by a pro-life group.
Well, that left only about 399,982 unused embryos then stored at IVF clinics — embryos that could have helped lead to cures for deadly diseases. We can only wonder how many lives might have been saved had medical research not been hobbled over two decades by an obsession over embryos that were getting thrown out anyway.
As the midterms approach, voters might ask themselves whether they want to empower a Republican Party that thinks like this — that couldn’t get even one out of 27 members to support something as basic as birth control.
Froma Harrop, a syndicated columnist, writes for the Providence (Rhode Island) Journal. Her e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
You can help your community
Quality, in-depth journalism is essential to a healthy community. The Dispatch brings you the most complete reporting and insightful commentary in the Golden Triangle, but we need your help to continue our efforts. Please consider subscribing to our website for only $2.30 per week to help support local journalism and our community.