July 22, 2024 3:35 pm
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National News

Senate bill to protect IVF blocked by Republican objection


Darreonna Davis, The 19th

This story was originally published by The 19th.

Mississippi Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith blocked a bill that would establish a federal right to in vitro fertilization (IVF) and other assisted reproductive technology.

The effort to quickly pass the Access to Family Building Act came in the wake of the Alabama Supreme Court’s February 16 ruling that embryos are children under the state’s Wrongful Death of a Minor Act. The ruling has resulted in some of the state’s hospitals and clinics pausing their IVF programs and some medical transport companies refusing to transport frozen embryos in the state. 

The bill, introduced last month by Democratic Sens. Tammy Duckworth of Illinois, Patty Murray of Washington, Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin and Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, would establish a statutory right to assisted reproductive technology (ART) and permit health care providers to offer IVF without fear of criminalization. It was brought to the floor under a process known as unanimous consent. While this helps expedite legislation, all it takes is one senator’s rejection for the legislation on the floor to be blocked. 

Hyde-Smith blocked an earlier version of the legislation in 2022. 

Duckworth said she opted for the unanimous consent process because a potential government shutdown is taking precedence on the Senate calendar. She said she worries about the Alabama families impacted by the recent decision.

“Think about all of the families and all of the women who had been injecting themselves with medication leading up to an IVF procedure only to have this decision come down — after they’ve been undergoing hormone therapy for weeks — and then suddenly, as you’re about to go and have the procedure, were told, ‘Nope. Sorry, we can’t do it because of this decision,’” Duckworth told The 19th ahead of the vote. “This is far bigger than just one state. We will have this issue in every single state that declared that a fertilized egg had more rights than a living, breathing, human being.”

Earlier Wednesday, Duckworth said on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter: “To all those Republicans who suddenly claim to support IVF—today would be a great day to get out of the way and let the Senate pass my bill to protect access to IVF nationwide.”

Hyde-Smith said on the Senate floor Wednesday that the legislation would not just protect IVF but allow for human cloning, commercial surrogacy and gene editing, an interpretation disputed by Duckworth.

“I support the ability for mothers and fathers to have total access to IVF and bringing new life into the world. I also believe human life should be protected,” Hyde-Smith said. She added: “We should strive to do both, and this bill does not do that. Therefore, I object.”

Duckworth had both of her daughters via IVF. She has introduced legislation to protect IVF access before and maintains that she will continue fighting for it, saying, “Hopefully, later on this year, we’ll get it to the floor for a vote.”

A few of the legislation’s cosponsors discussed their disappointment in Wednesday’s rejection but said they were not surprised due to Republicans’ anti-abortion stances. They warned that reproductive health care may be harder to access since the Supreme Court’s decision ending a federal right to abortion, a decision cited by the Alabama Supreme Court in its decision on IVF. 

Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren said: “The opposition to Senator Duckworth’s proposal today shows that Republicans are doubling down against reproductive freedom. They are coming for medication abortion, they are coming for birth control, and they are even coming for prenatal care.”