Kelly, Giffords share IVF journey to highlight challenges to reproductive rights

Sen. Mark Kelly (D-Ariz.) and his wife, former Rep. Gabby Giffords (D-Ariz.), opened up about their past fertility struggles to stress the importance of alternative pregnancy options, which they argued are under threat by politicians.

In a personal essay published Thursday in People magazine, Kelly and Giffords described how a gunman in 2011 took away their dreams of having a child together, and their concern politicians will do the same for Americans.

In 2011, Giffords was shot at a political event in Tucson, Ariz., in a shooting that left six others dead and several more injured. Two days after the shooting, Giffords and Kelly were slated to have an appointment at the Washington, D.C., facility where Giffords was receiving in vitro fertility treatments.

The couple, who have been married since 2007, noted they tied the knot “a little later” in life but wanted the chance to have children together. Kelly has two daughters from a previous marriage.

“We wanted to grow our family together and were fortunate enough to be able to pursue the only option for us: in vitro fertilization, or IVF. Gabby never made it to that appointment,” Giffords and Kelly wrote. “These past few months, as we’ve seen reproductive freedoms increasingly under attack in the absence of the protections of Roe v. Wade, our hearts break for the couples who, all of a sudden, can’t decide for themselves how and when to start their family.”

While IVF treatments are expensive and invasive, the couple noted they are the “safest” and sometimes, the only, way for some couples to have children.

Kelly and Giffords, who retired from Congress in 2012 to focus on her recovery, pointed to various landmark court decisions and legislative efforts that have thrust IVF into the political spotlight in recent months.

In Alabama, the state Supreme Court ruled in February that frozen embryos were children, and those who destroy them can be held liable for their death. IVF services were mostly halted in the state, though lawmakers quickly passed legislation to address civil and criminal liability for IVF providers, prompting some to resume services.

In Gifford’s and Kelly’s home state of Arizona, the Legislature passed a bill in 2023 that would have made child support payments retroactive to the date of a positive pregnancy test. Democratic Gov. Katie Hobbs, when vetoing the legislation, wrote that it “directly threatens the reproductive rights of Arizonans.”

On Capitol Hill, more than 130 House Republicans co-sponsored the Life at Conception Act, which would grant personhood from “the moment of fertilization, cloning” or any other mechanism of creation. All but two Senate Republicans, meanwhile, voted against a motion to force a vote on legislation that would make it a nationwide right for women to access IVF.

“Despite this real threat, Republicans in Congress have multiple times in recent weeks blocked legislation that would protect access to IVF and contraception for all Americans. The truth is there is a real danger of our country moving backwards — even further than we already have,” the essay stated.

The recent back-and-forth surrounding IVF and other reproductive rights is not “happening by chance,” Giffords and Kelly argued, calling out former President Trump and his judicial appointments.

Trump has taken credit for the Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe v. Wade through the appointment of three conservative justices to the bench.

“Donald Trump said himself that he “broke” Roe v. Wade, which set off a series of attacks on reproductive freedoms,” the essay stated. “Twenty states now have abortion bans, including Arizona, where our state has been in turmoil between two abortion bans, both of which endanger women’s health and threaten doctors with jail time.”

Kelly, 60, is serving is first term in the Senate, which is set to run until 2029.

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