Americans want to protect IVF amid battles over abortion, but the Senate is at odds over its future

Washington — Americans rarely seem to agree when it comes to IVF, with surveys pointing to widespread support for securing access to fertility treatments. But how Congress might act to ensure these protections amid perceived threats in states is another question. And in the Senate, lawmakers appear to be at odds over the path forward.

A Alabama Supreme Court decision earlier this year, a ruling that embryos are children under state law and prompted providers to halt fertility treatments in the state brought IVF to national attention. Although the state legislature took steps to protect access to the procedure, the development raised concerns about similar moves elsewhere.

And when Democrats tried to blame Republicans for opening a new front in the fight for reproductive rights, the Republican Party moved quickly to express support for fertility treatments as the possibility of restrictions on IVF access the elections in November threatened to become a problem.

But in the Senate, dueling bills to protect access to fertility treatments illustrate the persistent partisan divide.

Republican lawmakers this week introduced new legislation to protect access to IVF, insist bipartisan support. But the bill quickly faced resistance from Democrats, who questioned its scope and mechanism while pointing to their own idea for a path forward.

“We have a much better proposal and Republicans should support it,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer told reporters when asked about the Republican bill this week. He added that a proposal from Democratic Sen. Tammy Duckworth was “carefully implemented.”

The GOP bill, called the IVF Protection Act, would require states to “not prohibit in vitro fertilization” as a condition of receiving federal funding for Medicaid, which provides health insurance to low-income people. The bill makes clear that it does not force an organization or individual to offer IVF services, and it does not prevent states from otherwise regulating IVF.

But the bill's prospects in the Democratic-controlled Senate were quickly dashed.

Shortly after Republican Sens. Ted Cruz of Texas and Katie Britt of Alabama introduced the legislation, Duckworth, an Illinois Democrat who also introduced IVF legislation, criticized the bill. to claim that it would “incentivize deep-red states to cut Medicaid while banning IVF.”

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Sens. Katie Britt from Alabama and Ted Cruz from Texas visit The Megyn Kelly Show on May 20, 2024 in New York City.

NOAM GALAI / Getty Images


Cruz pushed back on the claim, telling CBS News it's a “ridiculous accusation” because no state would forego federal dollars while arguing that spending conditions are a common tool to impose federal demands.

“Democrats want to be fearmongers on the issue of IVF and a clear and simple bill that protects IVF at the federal level scares them because it takes away the political issue they want to use to scare voters,” Cruz said, adding that “ anyone who truly supports IVF should be an enthusiastic supporter of this bill.”

But Democrats also argue that the bill's definition of IVF, “the practice of collecting eggs from the ovaries and manually fertilizing them with sperm, later placing them in the uterus,” is too narrow, claiming that this fertility treatments would not fully protect. .

Barbara Collura, the CEO of Resolve: The National Infertility Association, said that under the bill, states can still pursue a number of options to regulate IVF, such as banning genetic testing on embryos, limiting the number of embryos created, or banning cryopreservation or freezing of embryos, which she said would “make the delivery of care very difficult,” while at the same time preventing the loss of federal funding.

“So it's very smart,” said Collura, whose organization helped draft the Democratic IVF legislation. “Lawmakers can honestly say, 'Hey, we didn't ban IVF.'”

Duckworth told CBS News that “the problem we need to address is the fact that all these states are starting to define a fertilized egg as a human child,” citing the Alabama Supreme Court's action, which stemmed from a wrongful death lawsuit where the court ruled that the frozen embryos stored for fertility treatments could be considered children.

“So Senator Cruz's bill does not address the issue at hand, which is the move by extremist far-right activists and anti-choice people to essentially ban access to choice in state after state after state and to the point where they're claiming that a fertilized egg is a human child,” she said.

Senator Tammy Duckworth speaks about a bill to establish federal protections for IVF as Senator Patty Murray listens during a press event on Capitol Hill on Tuesday, February 27, 2024.
Senator Tammy Duckworth speaks about a bill to establish federal protections for IVF as Senator Patty Murray listens during a press event on Capitol Hill on Tuesday, February 27, 2024.

Mark Schiefelbein / AP


Earlier this year, Duckworth tried to secure the adoption of a measure to protect access to IVF by unanimous consent. But one Republican senator objected, claiming this would go too far.

The Access to Family Building Act would create a legal right to access assisted reproductive services such as IVF. Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith, a Republican from Mississippi, objected to the motion to pass the bill unanimously, calling it a “huge overreach.” She warned that it would, among other things, legalize “the creation of human-animal chimeras,” although she did not elaborate on the term or explain what concerned her.

“I support the opportunity for mothers and fathers to have full access to IVF and bring new life into the world,” she said. “I also believe that human life must be protected – these are not mutually exclusive.”

The impasse over the issue comes as at least 23 states have proposed personal laws that could affect access to IVF treatments, according to the Guttmacher Institute, a research group that studies reproductive health. And Americans broadly want to secure access to IVF, according to CBS News polls. In a questionnaire released in March, 86% of Americans said they want to keep IVF legal.

Cruz said of his legislation that it should essentially be “100 to nothing” in the House.

“If there are Democrats who oppose it, the only reason will be because they want to claim it as a political issue rather than doing anything meaningful to protect it,” he added.

Despite pledges from both sides of the aisle to protect access to fertility treatments, a compromise seems unlikely.

“If they're accusing me of trying to create human-animal hybrids, I don't know how there's bipartisanship when that's absolutely not true,” Duckworth said.

Collura said that for Republicans who believe that a fertilized egg outside the body is a person, “it's going to be very difficult for you to protect IVF the way care is provided today.”

“I feel like this could be so impartial, and I've always felt that family formation is impartial,” she said. “Yet we know that if you call that fertilized egg a person, it is very difficult for you to support IVF. And so I don't know if we can get to a point where we have enough Republicans who will actually really protect it the way it needs to be protected. to be protected.”

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