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Alabama race fuels ongoing abortion rights, IVF debate

(NewsNation) — Alabama has become ground zero on the issue of abortion rights and in vitro fertilization (IVF) throughout the last few months.

This week, a Democrat who made reproductive rights a centerpiece of her campaign in the deeply conservative state won a special election to the Alabama Legislature.

It was a victory that Democrats say illustrates voter backlash to what they consider extreme reproductive restrictions imposed by Republicans.

Alabama’s abortion ban took effect in 2023 and allows no exemptions for pregnancies resulting from rape and incest. Democrats in the Alabama Legislature are seeking to change the law.

Former Democratic Alabama Sen. Doug Jones and Tiffany Smiley, a former Republican candidate who ran for Senate in Washington state, joined “The Hill on NewsNation” to discuss abortion in Alabama.

“Our state legislators who passed all that legislation are responding by saying, ‘Gosh, we didn’t see this coming. We didn’t understand this,'” Jones said. “Well, I think the issue is going to be across the country, but certainly in Alabama and elsewhere, all of these bans, all these restrictions that people are just not thinking through in the long term.”

In vitro fertilization emerged as a political issue across the U.S. in February after the Alabama Supreme Court ruled that embryos outside the uterus had the same legal protections as children in wrongful death lawsuits.

Major medical providers in Alabama paused IVF services until Alabama’s governor signed a quickly passed law protecting IVF providers from legal liability.

“We need to make it easier, not harder, for mothers and fathers to bring lives into this world. That means supporting the availability of fertility treatments,” Smiley said. “Republicans have been strong on this from the very beginning.”

While IVF is popular, some anti-abortion advocates have been pushing to recognize embryos and fetuses as humans as a step toward banning abortion.

“You know, look, I think it’s insulting that the Democrats tried to use fear and kind of sort of paint women as one-issue voters,” Smiley said. “We are so much more than that.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.