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Republican presidential candidate former President Donald Trump speaks at the National Religious Broadcasters convention at the Gaylord Opryland Resort and Convention Center on Feb. 22, in Nashville, Tenn.George Walker Iv/The Associated Press

Former President Donald Trump said Friday that he would “strongly support the availability of IVF” and called on lawmakers in Alabama to preserve access to the treatment. It was his first comment since an Alabama Supreme Court ruling that led some providers in the state to suspend their in vitro fertilization programs and has divided Republicans nationally over the issue.

Trump, in a post on his Truth Social network, said: “Under my leadership, the Republican Party will always support the creation of strong, thriving, healthy American families. We want to make it easier for mothers and fathers to have babies, not harder!”

The comments come after a ruling by the all-Republican Alabama Supreme Court, among the nation’s most conservative judicial panels, that frozen embryos can be considered children under state law. Since then, some Alabama clinics and hospitals, including the University of Alabama at Birmingham health system, have announced pauses on IVF services.

The fallout from Alabama has deepened divisions among conservatives over abortion and other reproductive services in a campaign season already fraught with debates over whether Republicans should pursue a national abortion ban after the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2022 ruling that overturned the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortion nationwide.

Trump’s statement also comes on the final day of campaigning before the South Carolina Republican presidential primary, in which the former president is the overwhelming favourite against Nikki Haley, the state’s former governor who served as Trump’s U.N. ambassador.

As president, Trump nominated three of the justices who overturned Roe and paved the way for state lawmakers across the country to impose dramatic restrictions in access to abortion.

Some anti-abortion advocates have suggested courts should go further to rule embryos are children, which would sharply ramp up restrictions on treatments like IVF. But the Alabama example has fuelled abortion-rights supporters and also many moderate voters who see the outcome of a hardline embryo policy restricting many Americans’ only path to having their own biological children.

And some more moderate Republicans worry that the party will lose more elections if GOP candidates are viewed as too extreme on those reproductive issues. –- Kinnard reported from Charleston. Price reported from Rock Hill, South Carolina. Barrow reported from New York.

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