Democrats plan to put reproductive freedom front and center at President Joe Biden’s State of the Union address Thursday night.

Over 30 Democrats, as well as First Lady Dr. Jill Biden, are bringing guests who are involved in the reproductive rights movement in some way. The guests range from people impacted by abortion bans to OB-GYNs and abortion providers, as well as pro-choice advocates working at national nonprofits. Several Democrats also invited patients and providers in the fertility care space to spotlight in vitro fertilization after the Alabama Supreme Court ruling which granted embryos the same legal status as children.

Members of the House Democratic Women’s Caucus announced they will be wearing white to Thursday’s address, as well as pins that read “Fighting for Reproductive Freedom.”

The president, a practicing Catholic, has made it clear that he’s “not big on abortion” ― leaving many abortion rights supporters frustrated that the administration isn’t doing enough since the Supreme Court repealed Roe v. Wade. Biden has made restoring Roe a central part of his reelection campaign, but the way he discusses abortion often leaves pro-choice advocates wanting more. In a recent interview with The New Yorker, Biden said he’s “never been supportive of, you know, ‘It’s my body, I can do what I want with it.’”

Most other Democrats are not as hesitant to showcase the issue on Thursday.

“It really is a chance to bring the voices of all the women, of all the doctors, of all the families that have been affected by this loss of personal freedom, by this loss of access to health care, to the corridors of Congress,” House Whip Katherine Clark (Mass.), who has openly discussed her own miscarriage story, told HuffPost.

Clark is bringing Amanda Zurawski, a Texas woman who was denied a lifesaving abortion until she was at death’s door and is now suing Texas along with several other women. Zurawski, who attended last year’s State of the Union address as Jill Biden’s guest, is honored to be back especially during such a critical election year for Democrats.

“It’s hard not to think about what could happen if Republicans win,” she told HuffPost, listing health care that the GOP is actively threatening to restrict including contraception, IVF and implementing a national abortion ban.

Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) invited Kayla Smith, an Idaho woman who was denied abortion care in her home state after discovering her pregnancy had fatal fetal abnormalities. Rep. Shontel Brown (D-Ohio) is bringing the mother of Brittany Watts, who was criminalized for miscarrying at home. Rep. Judy Chu (D-Calif.) invited Dr. Caitlin Bernard, an Indiana OB-GYN who Republicans targeted for providing a legal abortion to a 10-year-old rape victim.

First Lady Jill Biden announced earlier this year that one of her guests will be Kate Cox, who sued the state of Texas last year to access an emergency abortion. Cox eventually had to leave the state to get care. Latorya Beasley, a woman from Alabama whose IVF care was interrupted by the Alabama ruling, will also attend as one of Biden’s guests.

Democrats’ decision to spotlight reproductive health care at the State of the Union highlights how central abortion will be in the 2024 elections. Restricting abortion has not been a popular policy choice for congressional Republicans, and many are now scrambling to distance themselves from the Alabama IVF ruling in the wake of national outrage. Democrats know abortion is a winning issue, and are finally capitalizing on it.

Zurawski drew national headlines after she almost died in 2022 because Texas doctors would not provide abortion care. Despite being told her pregnancy was nonviable at 17 weeks, doctors said the fetus still had cardiac activity and refused to provide an abortion under the state’s near-total ban. After days of waiting to get sick enough for doctors to provide care, Zurawski became septic, and the hospital agreed to induce labor.

The ordeal left Zurawski in the intensive care unit with severe damage to her reproductive organs ― likely leaving her unable to carry a pregnancy to term. Zurawski and her husband are now using IVF and surrogacy to hopefully start their family.

A year to the day after Zurawski signed on to the Center for Reproductive Rights lawsuit against the state of Texas, the Alabama IVF ruling came out. Now, Zurawski has to worry about the embryos she and her husband are storing in Texas, which she’s concerned could follow in Alabama’s footsteps.

“Instantly, my husband and I were like, ‘This could happen in Texas tomorrow.’ We have got to get our embryos somewhere safe. As long as they’re in Texas, I don’t feel like they’re safe,” she told HuffPost.

“I’ve been really mad for a long time, but I tapped into a new level of rage because it was just so unbelievable,” she continued. “If you haven’t been through it, there’s no way for you to know and fully understand how stressful it is, how terrifying it is. How lonely and isolating it is.”

The Alabama ruling, which has forced three of the largest fertility clinics to pause IVF services, came out last month. Zurawski is still trying to move her embryos out of state, but a lack of couriers has created a backlog of patients in Alabama and other states like Texas where people feel their care could be threatened in the near future.

A handful of Democrats invited patients and providers in the IVF space to spotlight fertility care in the wake of the Alabama Supreme Court ruling.

Sen. Tammy Duckworth (Ill.), who has continually advocated for IVF protections despite Republican objection, is bringing Dr. Amanda Adeleye, a reproductive endocrinologist and fertility specialist. Sen. Tim Kaine (Va.) announced his guest for the State of the Union earlier this week ― Elizabeth Carr, the first person born via IVF in the U.S.

“I hope that my colleagues across the aisle are listening,” Clark told HuffPost. “It is not too late for them to decide that they can return to what we had, which was a constitutional right to abortion... and if they do not, it is going to be at their own electoral peril.”


Original story HERE.