Home Senate Republicans reject legislation to protect IVF access: ‘How dare you?’

Senate Republicans reject legislation to protect IVF access: ‘How dare you?’

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The Right to IVF Act was blocked by Senate Republicans yesterday despite personal stories from Democrats on the Senate floor Thursday.

After the Supreme Court’s 2022 decision allowing states to ban abortions and the Alabama Supreme Court’s February ruling that frozen embryos are considered children under state law, Democrats want to protect access to fertility treatment for American women, as reported by the Associated Press.

Military veteran Sen. Tammy Duckworth, who had her two children via fertility treatment, has championed the bill, which would expand access for military members and veterans through insurance providers.

“As a mom who struggled with infertility for years, as a parent who needed IVF to have my two beautiful little girls, all I can say to my Republican colleagues in this moment is, ‘How dare you,’” Duckworth of Illinois said after the vote.

All Republicans voted no to the bill, except for Sens. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Susan Collins of Maine. The bill gained only 48 votes and needed 60 for passage.

Sen. Mark R. Warner of Virginia co-sponsored the legislation that would protect and expand access to in-vitro fertilization (IVF) and other assisted reproductive technology (ART) services nationwide.

“For years, millions of women have safely and successfully used IVF to start and grow families, making their plans a reality and their dreams come true. Yet we’ve seen judges and politicians take direct aim at fertility care, including in Alabama, where a state Supreme Court ruling upended families’ access to IVF overnight. It isn’t a far-off threat or a fearmongering tactic – we’re in the middle of a targeted assault on women’s access to reproductive care, and we need federal protections in place so families in all 50 states have the freedom to grow if they wish to do so. I’m deeply disappointed that my colleagues failed to protect access to IVF today, including robust protections for servicemembers and military families. I stand firmly with a woman’s right to make her own health care decisions, and I’ll never stop fighting to protect and expand a right to IVF,” Warner said.

The Right to IVF Act includes provisions from the Warner-cosponsored Access to Family Building Act, and would establish a right for individuals to access IVF and ART services, as well as an adjacent right for doctors to provide these services. It also includes measures from the Veteran Families Health Services Act, which would improve fertility treatment and counseling options for veterans and servicemembers and promote research on servicemember and veteran reproductive health. It would also take several steps to increase affordability, including through mandating coverage of fertility treatments through employer-sponsored insurance plans and other public plans, as well as the Federal Employees Health Benefit (FEHB) Program.

U.S. Sen. Tim Kaine of Virginia is a member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee. He also helped to introduce the legislation.

“The first IVF baby in America, Elizabeth Carr, was born in Norfolk, Virginia in 1981. Since her birth, millions of Americans have relied on IVF and other assisted reproductive technology services to start or grow their families. Sadly, IVF has come under attack since the Supreme Court decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, and in February, the Alabama Supreme Court issued a ruling that paused IVF in the state. That’s why I was proud to introduce and vote for the Right to IVF Act to protect Americans’ freedom to decide whether, when, and how to start or build their families. This legislation would have also made IVF and other ART services more affordable for many families, including our nation’s servicemembers and veterans. While I’m disappointed that my colleagues again chose partisan obstruction over Americans’ right to make medical decisions without government interference, I remain committed to doing everything I can to protect reproductive freedom,” Kaine said. 

In March 2024, Kaine invited Elizabeth Carr to join him as his guest at the State of the Union to shine a light on the need to protect access to IVF. He also held two roundtables in Norfolk and Arlington to discuss the need to protect IVF. After the Supreme Court struck down Roe v. Wade, Kaine worked across the aisle to introduce the Reproductive Freedom For All Act, a bipartisan bill to protect access to abortion and contraception.

According to MomsRising, rejection of the legislation is Senate Republicans way of turning their backs on families facing infertility and adding to their “shameful record” on reproductive health. MomsRising is an online organization of more than 1 million mothers and families.

“It is shameful, and it is harmful that U.S. Senate Republicans today refused to take the simple, necessary step of passing a wildly popular bill to protect access to in-vitro fertilization (IVF) in the United States. Together with Republicans’ refusal to enshrine our right to contraception into federal law and to codify Roe v. Wade, this amounts to a total refusal to protect our access to reproductive health care. It is truly indefensible,” said Kristin Rowe-Finkbeiner, MomsRising executive director and CEO.

She said American mothers “wholeheartedly support the Rights to IVF Act, and thank U.S. Senators Tammy Duckworth (IL), Patty Murray (WA), and Cory Booker (NJ) for championing it. The need for a federal law is indisputable in the wake of the appalling actions by Alabama legislators who have still not clarified that embryos are not people with the same rights as children, and legislative proposals that threaten IVF access in other states. The Right to IVF Act would make IVF more affordable and establish a national right to IVF and other assisted reproductive therapies (ART); expand fertility treatment coverage for the military and veterans, allowing service members and veterans to freeze their eggs or sperm before heading into combat, as well as IVF coverage; require IVF coverage under employer-sponsored health plans and public insurance plans; and require the Federal Employees Health Benefit Program carriers to cover IVF and ART.”

IVF has brought tens of thousands of lives into the world and no family should have to fear they cannot access it.

“But Republicans in the U.S. Senate today refused to offer that simple protection. Moms will not forget this vote,” Rowe-Finkbeiner said.

Rebecca Barnabi

Rebecca Barnabi

Rebecca J. Barnabi is the national editor of Augusta Free Press. A graduate of the University of Mary Washington, she began her journalism career at The Fredericksburg Free-Lance Star. In 2013, she was awarded first place for feature writing in the Maryland, Delaware, District of Columbia Awards Program, and was honored by the Virginia School Boards Association’s 2019 Media Honor Roll Program for her coverage of Waynesboro Schools. Her background in newspapers includes writing about features, local government, education and the arts.

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