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Alabama I.V.F. Ruling Sparks Fresh Abortion Debate in Election Year

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The recent Alabama Supreme Court ruling that frozen embryos should be considered children has sparked political controversy and reignited debates over abortion and reproductive rights. The decision, made by a Republican-majority court, has put the spotlight on the Republican Party’s stance on reproductive health in an election year, and several Republican governors and lawmakers have distanced themselves from the ruling.

While some Republicans expressed support for in vitro fertilization (I.V.F.) treatments, others were planning to push bills that would declare that life begins at conception, sparking concerns about the potential consequences for fertility treatments.

In response to the ruling, Republican state senator Tim Melson of Alabama announced that he planned to introduce legislation clarifying that embryos are not viable until they are implanted in a woman’s uterus. This division within the party reflects the broader struggle to control the messaging around abortion and reproductive rights.

The Supreme Court’s decision in Alabama has prompted anti-abortion activists to push for I.V.F. model legislation that would declare that life begins at conception. This move has created a new battleground for Democrats, who have been using the Republican division to fuel their election efforts. Vice President Kamala Harris called the court’s decision “shocking” and “not surprising” given the recent overturning of Roe v. Wade.

The ruling has also brought to light the personal experiences of some Republican lawmakers and candidates with fertility treatments. Despite their stance against abortion, some Republicans have been vocal about their support for I.V.F. and the importance of fertility treatments in helping couples start a family.

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While Republican divisions over the Alabama ruling continue to play out, political strategists have advised the party to find consensus positions on reproductive health and to distance themselves from the most aggressive abortion restrictions. This reflects a broader effort to appeal to moderate voters and avoid the negative associations that have become synonymous with Republican positions on abortion.

The ruling in Alabama has reignited the national conversation around reproductive health, with Democrats seizing the opportunity to mobilize voters and impact the upcoming elections. As Republicans navigate the complex terrain of abortion and fertility treatments, the issue of reproductive rights is likely to remain a key battleground in the 2024 elections.

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Chats and reflections on the present moment.

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Lydia Polgreen

Credit…Will Heath/NBC, via Getty Images

It is a rare thing in our rapidly secularizing country to be confronted with piety and devotion in popular culture. So it was a surprise, and a balm, to watch a man who prays daily and talks openly about his devout faith storm a bastion of earthly godlessness: “Saturday Night Live.”

I am referring, of course, to the comedian Ramy Youssef, who hosted the show on what he described in his opening monologue as “an incredibly spiritual weekend,” noting Ramadan, Easter and the arrival of a new Beyoncé album.

“I’m doing the Ramadan one,” he quipped, to peals of laughter, unspooling a very funny bit about how loving Muslims are. Youssef has mined his experience as a believer among the profane in gentle standup specials and a namesake sitcom. His entire monologue glowed with a welcoming warmth — Muslims, he seemed to say: We’re just like you.

In a country that is supposedly obsessed with diversity and inclusion, it is remarkable how rare it is to hear from a practicing Muslim in America.

Surveys by the Institute for Policy and Understanding, a nonpartisan research organization focused on Muslim Americans, have consistently found that Muslims are the most likely group to report religious discrimination in the United States. According to a Pew survey conducted in 2021, 78 percent of Americans said that there was either a lot or some discrimination against Muslims in our society. Muslims are no more likely to commit crimes than members of any other group, but crimes in which Muslims are suspects get outsized media coverage, research has shown.

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It is no surprise, then, that Islamophobia is perhaps the most tolerated form of religious prejudice. Right now, Senate Republicans appear to have persuaded several Senate Democrats to vote against a Muslim judicial nominee after smearing him, with no evidence at all, as an antisemite.

Many of the skits that toyed with religion on “S.N.L.” on Saturday were funny — Ozempic for Ramadan! Genius. But part of me winced through them as well, because I saw in Youssef something that other members of minority groups have had to do to “earn” their place in the safety of the mainstream: the performance of normalcy, of being nonthreatening and sweet, the requirement to prove that your community belongs in America just like everyone else’s.

I loved Youssef’s monologue, in which he bravely pleaded, “Please, free the people of Palestine. And please, free the hostages. All of the hostages.”

“I am out of ideas,” Youssef declared toward the end of his monologue. “All I have is prayers.”

To which this nonbeliever can only say: Same, Ramy. Same.

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