Senate Republicans defeat bill that would have made IVF a legal right

Cindy Hyde-Smith in front of books and an American flag
Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-MS) Photo: via Wikipedia

Senate Republicans have blocked legislation to protect access to in vitro fertilization (IVF), a fertility method used by many same-sex couples to get pregnant. It’s the third time that Republicans have blocked such a bill since Roe v. Wade was overturned in June 2022, and the vote could come back to haunt Republicans in the November general election.

On Thursday, the Senate voted 48-47 — largely along party lines — to kill The Right to IVF Act. The legislation, which needed 60 votes to pass the upper congressional chamber, would have established a nationwide right to IVF and other assisted reproductive technology. The act would also have made IVF more accessible by lowering the treatment’s costs.

Most Republicans dismissed the bill as a political election season stunt that was unnecessary and overly broad, according to CNN. After the vote, every Senate Republican signed a pledge saying they “strongly support” continued nationwide access to IVF, The Hill reported. The Republicans’ actions came just one day after the Southern Baptist Convention passed a resolution opposing IVF because the convention considers fertilized embryos as living human beings.

Last month, Republican Sens. Katie Britt (AL) and Ted Cruz (TX) introduced a bill called the IVF Protection Act, which would deny vital Medicaid funding to states that prohibit access to IVF. However, Democrats blocked a vote on the act, saying that it wouldn’t enshrine a legal right to access IVF and that its provisions allow courts to ban the procedure and states to “implement health and safety standards” on how embryos are stored, implanted, and disposed of which would essentially allow states to severely restrict access to IVF.

Since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in 2022, religious conservatives have increasingly set their sights on other technology used to assist or prevent pregnancies. The Alabama Supreme Court, earlier this year, ruled that the fertilized embryos created during IVF are legally children, a move that led to several clinics stopping IVF treatments.

“Following the Alabama Supreme Court’s ruling that embryos created through in vitro fertilization are considered children, so-called fetal personhood bills have been introduced in Kansas, Florida, Colorado, Iowa, Louisiana, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Massachusetts, Missouri, New York, Oklahoma, South Carolina, and Utah during the 2024 legislative session,” out Sen. Laphonza Butler (D-CA) noted in a statement following the Thursday vote.

“Extreme MAGA Republicans across the nation will stop at nothing to exert control over women’s bodies,” Butler’s statement continued. “Just three months ago, my Republican colleagues in this chamber had the opportunity to stand with women and families. Instead, they blocked a bill to expand IVF access and family-building services for veterans & service members, which after serving our nation, for many, is the only way to make their dream of having a family possible.”

In February, Senate Republicans killed the Access to Family Building Act, which would have established federal protections for IVF. Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-MS) called the bill a “vast overreach … full of poison pills that go way too far, far beyond ensuring legal access to IVF.” Hyde-Smith blocked an identical bill in December 2022.

Republicans worry that banning IVF could bring more pro-choice Democratic voters to the polls in the 2024 elections. Since the overturning of Roe v. Wade, voters in seven states have supported ballot measures strengthening abortion access, even in conservative states like Kansas, Kentucky, and Ohio. Similar measures will be on the November ballots in Colorado, Florida, Maryland, and South Dakota, all of which could help bring out Democratic voters to oppose former President Donald Trump and other Republican candidates.

new report on fertility legislation also reveals the disproportionate stress that post-Roe legislation is having on prospective LGBTQ+ parents.

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