RFK Jr’s surprise vice-presidential pick is a vehement critic of IVF

In February, a decision by the Alabama Supreme Court prompted IVF clinics in the state to close their doors. The legislature swiftly stepped in with a jury-rigged solution to allow them to conduct their business.

But the court’s ruling made everyone realise that the IVF industry is not above criticism. Images of glowing mothers and gurgling babies paper over troubling ethical and medical issues. As a result, IVF is shaping up to be a major issue in the 2024 US Presidential campaign.

So it’s interesting that the main independent candidate, Robert F. Kennedy Jr, has selected an outspoken sceptic of the IVF industry as his vice-presidential running mate, Nicole Shanahan. She doesn’t mince her words. “I believe IVF is sold irresponsibly, and my own experience with natural childbirth has led me to understand that the fertility industry is deeply flawed,” she said in an essay in People magazine.

Outside of Silicon Valley, Shanahan is better known as the ex-wife of the co-founder of Google, Sergey Brin. But the 38-year-old attorney is an impressive figure in her own right. She is the founder of a legal tech company and has set up a couple of foundations for research into her passion, “reproductive longevity”. She believes that extending the age at which women can have children is “the natural and necessary progression of the women’s-rights movement.” 

When married to Sergey Brin, she struggled to have a child. After a two-year rollercoaster ride on IVF treatment, she magically conceived her daughter Echo naturally. That convinced her that IVF is more of a commercial endeavour than a scientific one. “I’m learning now that it wasn’t magic at all. I was actually very healthy,” she told the Financial Times. “And it turns out many women have these moments of surprise conception when they least expect it.”

Ever since, she has had little time for the IVF industry. “I think that there has been a very big missing category of medical services,” she told The New Yorker last year. “Many of the IVF clinics are financially incentivized to offer you egg freezing and IVF and not incentivized to offer you other fertility services.”

“It became abundantly clear that we just don’t have enough science for the things that we are telling and selling women,” Shanahan told the Financial Times in January: “It’s one of the biggest lies that’s being told about women’s health today.”

“I’ve spent the past five years funding science to understand the environmental factors that impact women’s reproductive health because these have gone largely ignored,” Shanahan told Politico. “IVF is a very expensive for-profit business, and many of these clinics are owned by private equity firms that are not invested in the underlying health of women.”



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Shanahan’s views are unpopular both with feminists and Biden supporters. “Junk science,” sneered Mini Timmaraju, president of Reproductive Freedom for All.

“Reasonable people could have concerns with bioethics, or a lot of us have concerns with how a lot of science is marketed and mass produced, right?” Timmaraju told Politico. “I’m sure there’s a tiny little kernel and rationale behind all of this. But at the end of the day, IVF has been a long-established reproductive health technology, and Nicole Shanahan, bless her, is not a medical expert.”

Criticism is unlikely to silence Shanahan. “I try to imagine where we would be as a field if all of the money that has been invested in IVF, and all of the money that’s been invested into marketing IVF, and all of the government money that has been invested in subsidizing IVF, if just 10 percent of that went into reproductive longevity research and fundamental research, where we would be today,” she said in a webinar hosted by the Buck Institute in 2021.

Many opponents of the IVF industry are Christians who believe that it is destroying countless frozen human lives. Shanahan is not aligned with them. She approaches the IVF industry as a feisty feminist who believes that women who want to have children are being exploited.  

But come November, those differences might not matter. Voters who cannot stomach Biden or Trump and have misgivings about the government’s cosy relationship with the IVF industry might view the RFK Jr / Shanahan ticket as an intriguing option.

Would you vote for RFK Jr and Nicole Shanahan in November? Tell us what you think in the comments below.  

Michael Cook is editor of Mercator.

Image credit: screenshot, Forbes


Showing 3 reactions

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  • Kathleen Lundquist
    commented 2024-04-06 04:59:03 +1100
    Spokesperson for purportedly feminist organization: "IVF has been a long-established reproductive health technology, and Nicole Shanahan, bless her, is not a medical expert.”

    No, not a medical expert – but she has first-hand experience and knowledge of the industry through what she suffered at its hands.

    Whatever happened to “Believe women”, “Listen to women’s stories”, etc…. ?
  • Jim Murray
    followed this page 2024-04-05 21:42:42 +1100
  • Michael Cook
    published this page in The Latest 2024-04-05 21:14:17 +1100