Senate Democrats renew election year push for IVF protections

June 3, 2024

Senate Democrats on introduced a legislative package Monday aimed at protecting access to in vitro fertilization (IVF), part of an election year push to focus on reproductive rights and get Republicans on the record opposing those efforts.

The Right to IVF Act, sponsored by Sens. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), Patty Murray (D-Wash.) and Cory Booker (D-N.J.), is a package of four bills that would both establish a nationwide right to IVF and other assisted reproductive technology, as well as lower the costs of IVF treatment to make it more affordable.

The package includes the Access to Family Building Act, the Veteran Families Health Services Act, the Access to Infertility Treatment and Care Act and the Family Building FEHB Fairness Act.

All four have been previously introduced, though only Duckworth’s Access to Family Building Act made it to the Senate floor, where Republicans blocked an attempt to pass it by unanimous consent. 

“In the nearly two years since the Supreme Court threw out Roe v. Wade, our nation has seen the horrific consequences of Republicans’ anti-science, anti-woman crusade that has put IVF at risk for millions of Americans who rely on it to start or grow their family,” Duckworth said in a statement.  

Duckworth tried to pass her bill in February, but Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-Miss.) objected, dismissing the bill as an overreach full of “poison pills” that would go “far beyond ensuring legal access to IVF.” 

Democrats are hammering Republicans over reproductive rights ahead of November’s elections, and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) is planning to focus on the issue this month ahead of the third anniversary of the Supreme Court overturning Roe v. Wade.

They are going on offense over access to abortion, contraception and IVF, looking to hold Republicans’ feet to the fire and force them to answer uncomfortable questions about the full impact of strict anti-abortion policies and their belief in fetal personhood.

To date, 13 states have introduced fetal personhood bills that would affect the legality of IVF.

Access to IVF took center stage this winter when Alabama’s Supreme Court ruled embryos are children, and thus are protected by the state’s wrongful death statute. 

The decision was met with immediate backlash from both sides of the aisle. Many Republicans raced to distance themselves from the ruling, saying they fully support IVF, and the GOP Senate campaign arm called on candidates to reject attempts to regulate access to the procedure.

But Republicans have largely avoided detailing how clinics should handle unimplanted, viable embryos, as many seem to agree that embryos are children with equal rights. 

In late May, Sen. Ted Cruz (Texas) and Katie Britt (Ala), staunch anti-abortion Republicans, introduced a bill they said is aimed at protecting IVF. 

The legislation would bar states from receiving Medicaid funding if they implement a ban on IVF. Cruz and Britt also said the legislation would ensure IVF is fully protected by federal law, though it does not create a right to IVF.

The bill creates an incentive for politicians not to pass legislation banning IVF, but it wouldn’t stop a court from restricting the procedure, like what happened in Alabama.

“Unlike GOP legislation that would not protect IVF and is only a PR tool for Republicans to hide their extremism, our Right to IVF Act would actually protect Americans from attempts to restrict IVF and would allow more people to access these vital services at a lower cost,” Murray said.