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House Republicans are outraged that veterans in same-sex marriages may get access to IVF

IVF, sperm, egg, fertilization
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Four House Freedom Caucus members have voiced their “strong objections” to the Department of Veterans Affairs’ recent announcement that it will provide in-vitro fertilization (IVF) treatment for U.S. military veterans who are unmarried or in same-sex marriages.

In a March 20 letter to VA Secretary Denis McDonough, Reps. Matt Rosendale (R-MT), Bob Good (R-VA), Mary Miller (R-IL), and Josh Brecheen (R-OK) said that the VA’s announcement last week “creates a plethora of ethical concerns and questions.” They also described IVF — the most common method of assisted reproduction — as “morally dubious” and said that it “should not be subsidized by the American taxpayer.”

They noted that “IVF treatments result in a surplus of embryos after the best ones are tested and selected.” Echoing arguments against IVF by anti-abortion groups, they wrote that frozen embryos can be abandoned or “cruelly discarded.” They claimed that the decision to leave unused embryos frozen for many years “points to their inherent humanity.”

The letter also suggested that the VA does not have the authority to expand access to IVF under existing law. But according to Axios, a spokesperson for the VA said that the department is required by law to adhere to Defense Department policy. Last week, the DoD also announced that it would begin allowing active-duty service members with service-related fertility issues or illnesses to access IVF treatment regardless of their marital status and also through the use of donated sperm and/or eggs or donated embryos.

The VA does not destroy embryos, the spokesperson noted, and decisions about whether to discard embryos are left to veterans.

The four Republicans’ objections to the VA’s policy change come as most Republicans are scrambling to reconcile their opposition to abortion rights and support for IVF. The issue gained national attention following an unprecedented ruling by the Alabama Supreme Court last month that declared embryos have the same legal rights as children. The court’s February 16 decision created widespread fear that IVF providers could face criminal or civil penalties if they mishandled or destroyed embryos, leading several major healthcare providers in the state to halt IVF treatment.

In response to public outcry, the Alabama legislature passed a bill shielding IVF providers from civil and criminal liability but failed to address the underlying issue of whether embryos existing outside a human uterus should be considered children under the law.

As Axios noted, legal experts have warned that the language in state laws banning abortion that have been enacted since the Supreme Court’s decision overturning Roe v. Wade could be interpreted as banning IVF as well.

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