Nikki Haley sides with Alabama Supreme Court on IVF ruling: 'Embryos, to me, are babies'

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NORTH AUGUSTA, S.C. — Former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley said Wednesday that frozen embryos created through in-vitro fertilization are “babies,” siding with a recent Alabama Supreme Court decision that raised concerns among doctors and patients about the future of the procedure.

“Embryos, to me, are babies,” Haley told NBC News in an interview, adding that she used artificial insemination to have her son, a different process than IVF that doesn't present the same complexities around creating embryos in a lab. "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.”

Classifying embryos as children under state law raises significant questions about whether the practice, used by families having trouble conceiving, could continue in states like Alabama. Unused embryos are often destroyed, which could open families or clinics up to wrongful death lawsuits under this policy. Storing frozen embryos, meanwhile, is expensive.

Later on Wednesday, the University of Alabama at Birmingham announced that it was pausing IVF treatments in response to the state Supreme Court ruling.

"We are saddened that this will impact our patients’ attempt to have a baby through IVF, but we must evaluate the potential that our patients and our physicians could be prosecuted criminally or face punitive damages for following the standard of care for IVF treatments," the university announced.

Asked if legislation and rulings like the one in Alabama could have a chilling effect on families using IVF to become parents, Haley said, “This is one where we need to be incredibly respectful and sensitive about it."

"I know that when my doctor came in, we knew what was possible and what wasn’t," Haley continued, adding: "Every woman needs to know, with her partner, what she’s looking at. And then when you look at that, then you make the decision that’s best for your family."

Haley has sought to find a rhetorical middle ground on reproductive health policy as a 2024 presidential candidate. She has repeatedly calling for national "consensus" on abortion in debates instead of the bans and restrictions favored by some of her primary opponents.

But any moves that could restrict IVF appear broadly unpopular. In a 2022 Washington Post article, political scientists analyzing a decade-plus of survey data found that only a slim minority of voters who oppose abortion also opposed IVF.

As Haley presses her increasingly long-shot bid for the White House against former President Donald Trump, she has warned that ongoing legal proceedings could hamper his electability. Asked if she could vote for him if he were the nominee and he was convicted of a felony, Haley dodged, saying “those are hypotheticals” and questioning whether Trump would even stay in the 2024 presidential race at that point.

“The problem is, we don’t know,” Haley said. “No one knows what’s going to happen. That’s the bottom line. And if you don’t know what’s going to happen — what I do know is, if you’re sitting in that much uncertainty, it’s more of a reason why he’s going to lose a general election.”

Asked if that’s why she’s still in this race, Haley reiterated it’s because she wants to provide voters with a choice.

“Three states have voted. Three. That’s just not enough," she said. "And so everybody’s saying, 'Oh, but why don’t you get out? Why don’t you get out? Why don’t you let people vote? Why don’t you let them decide?'”

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