GOP Senator Blocks Bill Protecting Access To IVF In Wake Of Alabama Ruling

Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.) had introduced a bill last month that would establish a federal right to IVF and other fertility treatments.

WASHINGTON ― Democratic legislation seeking to protect access to in vitro fertilization across the country was blocked in the Senate on Wednesday by Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-Miss.).

Hyde-Smith dismissed the bill as “a vast overreach” and objected to a unanimous consent request from Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.). The Republican senator claimed the bill would legalize human cloning and commercial surrogacy.

“The bill before us today is a vast overreach that is full of poison pills that go way too far, far beyond ensuring legal access to IVF,” Hyde-Smith said on the Senate floor.

Duckworth refuted Hyde-Smith’s claim, noting that the Access to Family Building Act would establish a statutory right to IVF and other fertility treatments, reserve the right of physicians to provide such treatment without the fear of being prosecuted and allow insurance companies to cover the cost of those treatments.

The Democrat’s bill would allow IVF treatment to continue in states like Alabama, where a court granted embryos the same legal rights as children under the state’s wrongful death statute. Currently, the three largest IVF providers in Alabama have paused services to avoid legal risk.

Duckworth, who had her two children through IVF, introduced the bill last month after Republicans blocked a similar piece of legislation she proposed in 2022. Hyde-Smith also objected to Duckworth’s 2022 bill seeking to protect fertility treatments.

The outrage from the Alabama ruling has left many Republicans faltering when asked about their thoughts on IVF. Although many congressional Republicans recognize that IVF helps build families, many also agree with the Alabama Supreme Court’s decision that embryos should be treated like children.

“No one has IVF to destroy life, they have IVF to create life,” Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) told reporters earlier this week. “Unfortunately, you have to create multiple embryos, and some of those are not used, then you’re now in a quandary.”

Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-Miss.) blocked a measure to protect access to in vitro fertilization.
Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-Miss.) blocked a measure to protect access to in vitro fertilization.
Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call via Getty Images

Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) told reporters she supports access to IVF but wouldn’t say that embryos aren’t children.

IVF is a medical procedure where doctors fertilize eggs and sperm outside of the body, often used by people struggling to get pregnant. The resulting embryos can either be implanted into a patient’s uterus in hopes of getting pregnant, or the embryos can be frozen for future use. Some embryos are usually discarded in the process ― an action that some Republicans believe amounts to murder and should be illegal.

More than 120 House Republicans endorsed the Life at Conception Act last year, legislation that would ban abortion as early as fertilization. Many of those lawmakers are now walking back their policy stance and voicing support for IVF.

Senate Republicans’ decision to block Duckworth’s bill contradicts much of what the national party said in the wake of the Alabama ruling earlier this month. Presumptive GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump called on the Alabama legislature to “act quickly to find an immediate solution to preserve the ability of IVF” in the state, and the campaign arm for Senate Republicans sent a memo to candidates urging them to publicly reject efforts to restrict the fertility treatment.

Years before Roe v. Wade fell, abortion rights advocates warned that this would be the next step in the war on reproductive rights if the Supreme Court ever repealed federal abortion protections. Currently, more than a dozen states are considering laws that would enshrine fetal personhood, threatening IVF and other fertility treatments.

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