As Republicans plot new bans on fertility treatments, Mike Pence learns he’s not in charge here

Stay calm, America. While you’re taking some time to regain your breath after facing the raw, masculine courage it must have taken for a Republican to say out loud that maybe American citizens shouldn’t be thrown in prison for using a widely available infertility treatment that a creepy undercult of American society believes they and only they should be in charge of, you don’t need to be too surprised here. Yeah, it turns out a Republican thinks a particular medical procedure should not be criminalized only because it’s one that personally benefited his own family.

Sure, whatever. What a big guy. Thank goodness Odo from Deep Space Nine here is finally feeling comfortable opining about the vagaries of human culture.

This is normally the part of each story where we make a big deal about some extremely pompous godbothering Republican Jesus wannabe speaking out softly against a major tenet of godbothering conservative orthodoxy only after they, personally, were affected by one of its particular cruelties. Conservatism consists in major part of an inability to feel empathy for anyone, at any time, until the same social or medical problem slaps them upside their own heads. But we can’t even do that here, because this is Pence we’re talking about.

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And Pence doesn’t have human empathy even for himself.

This is the man who had to flee a Trump-incited violent mob during a coup attempt and not only can’t bring himself to fully distance himself from the seditionist traitor who tried to kill him, he’s refusing to testify to the committee investigating the conspiracy that he was a primary target of. For him to give a flying damn about his own family, even in this one small instance, is more than any of us should expect from him.

For those unfamiliar with the rabbit hole of anti-abortion religious conservatism, the American movement pushing for the criminalization of all abortions under all circumstances claims to believe human life “begins at conception,” and thus any egg that meets any sperm needs to be considered a full human being from the moment of impact. Many go even farther, claiming that birth control pills, condoms, and in fact any sexual act that doesn’t deposit sperm where sperm “belongs” is all murder because it’s preventing God from creating the new human he might have created if you weren’t trying to put all these roadblocks in the way.

The problem with IVF, then, is that if you believe that the primary role of God is to police everybody’s sex lives and make sure nobody is either making babies or not making babies without the express written consent of Himself, Major League Baseball, and/or whatever local pastor has a bug up his rectory about it, then the IVF process of fertilizing multiple eggs and implanting each of them into the uterus in the hopes that at least one of them will successfully attach and grow means all the fertilized eggs that don’t get used or which don’t successfully attach themselves are all full-fledged human beings and well, now you, your partner, and the doctors are all serial killers for not being able to bring all those fertilized eggs to term as well. Many far-right religious conservatives want would-be parents to go to jail for that, too.

Mere days ago, in fact, new audio was released of anti-abortion conservatives strategizing over how best to criminalize both contraception and IVF.

So there you go. Pence is boldly inching to his party’s left flank by suggesting that maybe the enforced theocracy Republicans are demanding of the Supreme Court should not put couples seeking fertility treatments in prison since it’s a supposed crime that he and his wife have personal experience with. Very big of him. Oh, and it won’t make a difference because the religious conservatives he helped stack the Supreme Court with don’t have any reason to listen to him.

Pence doesn’t get a say in how far his religious movement will drift into extremism. Justice Samuel Alito Jr. decides that, and Justice Samuel Alito Jr. has already plainly expressed his belief that our religious laws will be based on Alito’s version of religion and nobody else’s. You’d think that the millions of Americans who’ve kept voting for religious theocracy based on “their own” beliefs would have gotten wise to that particular detail right now, but no. No, they never do.


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We’re now in the second week of election overtime and there are still plenty of major races yet to be decided—as well as tons more great news for Democrats to exult over on this week’s episode of The Downballot. On the uncalled races front, co-hosts David Nir and David Beard dive into a pair of House races in California and several legislatures that could flip from red to blue, including the Pennsylvania House. Speaking of legislatures, the Davids also go deep on what the astonishing flips in Michigan will mean for progressives and particularly organized labor.

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