Senate sinks competing IVF bills: How did they differ?

June 13, 2024

Two Senate bills from different sides of the aisle aimed at protecting access to in vitro fertilization (IVF) were voted down this week amid bipartisan squabbling.

The Right to IVF Act — sponsored by Democratic Sens. Tammy Duckworth (Ill.), Patty Murray (Wash.) and Cory Booker (N.J.) — and the IVF Protection Act — sponsored by Republican Sens. Katie Britt (Ala.) and Ted Cruz (Texas) — were shot down this week along party lines.

Democrats blocked a unanimous request by Republicans on Wednesday, arguing the GOP bill didn’t go far enough in ensuring IVF access. Murray called the legislation “a PR tool, plain and simple.”

“If Democrats allowed the IVF Protection Act to pass today, they would lose a key scare tactic they believe helps them in November,” Britt said following the vote. “And that is ultimately what this is all about.”

Republicans returned the favor Thursday, blocking the Democrats’ bill from moving forward. GOP senators criticized the vote as an election year stunt and brought up concerns over unfunded mandates, as well as the possible impact on religious freedom.

President Biden lambasted the vote, saying in a statement Thursday, “Once again, Senate Republicans refused to protect access to fertility treatments for women who are desperately trying to get pregnant.”

While these bills were crafted with the same intentions on the surface, there are key differences.

The Republican IVF Protection Act would bar states from receiving Medicaid funding if they implement a ban on IVF. Democrats argue this bill incentivizes far-right Republican policymakers to both defund Medicaid and ban IVF at the same time.

It also explicitly does not guarantee a right to IVF services.

“Nothing in the IVF Protection Act shall be construed to compel any individual or organization to provide in vitro fertilization services,” the legislation reads.

While the bill urges states to not pass IVF bans, it would not stop courts from restricting access to the service. It would also have permitted restrictions on how embryos are stored, implanted and disposed of.

The Democrats’ version is more comprehensive, being a collection of four bills that would establish a national right to IVF services and other assisted reproductive technology.

The bill would establish the right of a patient to receive fertility treatment from a health care provider; to continue or complete an ongoing fertility treatment previously initiated by a health care provider; to make decisions on what happens to reproductive genetic material; and to establish contracts on a provider’s handling, testing, storing, shipping and disposing of the genetic material.

Fertility treatments and counseling would be added to Title 38 of the U.S. Code, which outlines Veterans’ Benefits. State Medicaid plans would also be required to provide assistance for fertility treatments.