Missouri Democrat Debuts Ad Linking GOP Sen. Josh Hawley To Anti-IVF Efforts

It's a preview of a theme Democrats are likely to hammer in the 2024 election — even though Republicans say they support access to fertility treatments.
Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.), here at a Jan. 31 Senate Judiciary Committee hearing, has said that he's "pro-IVF."
Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.), here at a Jan. 31 Senate Judiciary Committee hearing, has said that he's "pro-IVF."
Mark Schiefelbein/Associated Press

A Missouri Democrat is launching a TV ad targeting Sen. Josh Hawley and Republicans over IVF access, previewing what’s likely to become a predominant election-year attack from the left, even in red states.

Democrat Lucas Kunce, who hopes to take Hawley’s Senate seat in November, is launching a five-figure ad buy beginning Monday with a 30-second spot in which a Missouri mother describes having a baby after in vitro fertilization treatment and claims Hawley wouldn’t protect people’s right to the procedure. Hawley has previously denied taking that position.

“I just had this beautiful baby, and I held her and I just, like, knew I was meant to be her mom,” the Missouri woman, named Jessica, says. “Now there are efforts to ban IVF, and Josh Hawley got them started. Josh Hawley has proven that he won’t protect IVF and he would let politicians make me a criminal.

“I want Josh Hawley to look me in the eye and tell me that I can’t have a child that I deserve,” she says.

The spot will air during shows on network and cable TV designed to appeal to women, such as “The Masked Singer,” “Grey’s Anatomy” and “The Real Housewives of Potomac,” Kunce’s campaign said.

“It’s not just about access to IVF,” Kunce told HuffPost. “That’s just the current moment. Missourians want to have the ability to control their own lives. We want the resources to make our own decisions, and we want the government to get out of the way ... IVF is such a great example of the extreme he’s willing to go to control other people’s lives.”

The ad cites a recent Guardian report about Hawley’s legal work for Hobby Lobby, which the Supreme Court sided with in its landmark 2014 decision that “for-profit religious corporations” shouldn’t have to provide employees with birth control under the Affordable Care Act. Hawley was part of the legal team that likened contraception to an abortifacient, a drug that terminates a pregnancy.

The ad also cites Hawley’s support of a federal court nominee under former President Donald Trump who opposed IVF and surrogate birth.

The Alabama Supreme Court ruling last month that declared frozen embryos the same as children under Alabama law is a political land mine for anti-abortion Republicans who’ve tried to distance themselves from the unpopular decision.

Hawley said after the ruling that he’s “pro-IVF” and noted it’s protected under his state’s law and should be everywhere. The Alabama ruling still sparked concerns in Missouri, where the law states that life begins at conception and abortion is banned with limited exceptions, about continued access to fertility treatments.

In a statement to HuffPost, Hawley spokesperson Abigail Jackson said, “This is dumb. Josh is 100% pro-life and 100% pro-IVF.”

Kunce’s commercial appears to be the first from a Senate hopeful on IVF, a subject that fires up more than just Democrats and will shape election-year messaging under the banner of reproductive freedom. An Axios/Ipsos poll last month found that two-thirds of respondents disagree with the idea that frozen embryos should be considered people.

Kunce’s ad will begin airing on the heels of a surprise win for Democrats this week in Alabama, where Democrat Marilyn Lands flipped a deep-red state House seat campaigning on IVF access. It’s the latest victory for Democrats who’ve won challenging referendums on reproductive freedom since the fall of Roe v. Wade in 2022.

It also comes as Hawley’s wife, Erin Morrow Hawley, a law professor representing anti-abortion doctors and conservative groups, takes center stage in the U.S. Supreme Court battle to restrict access to the abortion pill.

Democrat Lucas Kunce has mounted his second Senate campaign in Missouri.
Democrat Lucas Kunce has mounted his second Senate campaign in Missouri.
via Associated Press

Kunce, a Marine veteran and populist Democrat who failed to secure the Democratic nomination for the U.S. Senate two years ago, is the presumed front-runner in the Democratic primary to take on Hawley.

The 2022 Missouri Senate race for an open seat wasn’t close — Republican Eric Schmitt crushed Democrat Trudy Busch Valentine in a state Trump easily carried in 2020. But Kunce’s campaign, buoyed by a national donor base that’s eager to mobilize against Hawley, is hoping for a better outcome now. Hawley is seen as a rising GOP star, but he’s also polarizing, with his unwavering support for Christian values and manhood.

“Data in Missouri is consistent and compelling that this is a state where voters place a premium on control being wrestled away from politicians’ hands and back into the hands of people,” said Kunce campaign pollster Elizabeth Sena. “Taking away IVF and Josh Hawley’s involvement is an issue that is moving voters already.”

Popular in the Community


What's Hot