February 28, 2024

US Senate Republicans Block Democrats' Bill Assuring Right to IVF

Source: Reuters


WASHINGTON (Reuters) -Democrats on Wednesday failed in an attempt to rush legislation through the U.S. Senate guaranteeing Americans' access to in vitro fertilization and other assisted reproductive technologies, after an Alabama court designated frozen embryos as children.

The state Supreme Court ruling on Feb. 16 that frozen embryos should be considered children prompted at least three Alabama providers to halt the IVF procedure that involves combining eggs and sperm in a laboratory dish for couples having difficulty conceiving.

Alabama's court ruling has raised concerns that those involved in IVF could face prosecution because embryos that are found to be nonviable are sometimes disposed of or used for research, and that it could encourage other states to follow suit.

Democratic Senator Tammy Duckworth, an Iraq War veteran who suffered grave injuries in combat in 2004, sought an immediate vote by the Senate on Wednesday on passage of her "Access to Family Building Act" legislation.

Her move for a vote, which required the consent of all 100 senators, was promptly blocked by Republican Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith.

"The bill before us today is a vast overreach that is full of poison pills that goes way too far, far beyond ensuring legal access to IVF," Hyde-Smith said.

Duckworth countered that her bill simply would guarantee access to IVF treatments and facilities "without fear of being prosecuted," while also shielding IVF providers and health insurance companies.

While many Republican officeholders have expressed discomfort with the Alabama court ruling, the party was not ready to fall in line with Democrats on this hot-button issue that is linked to the national debate over women's right to abortion.

Duckworth told reporters on Tuesday that she struggled for a decade with infertility following her military service in Iraq, which prompted her and her husband to turn to IVF. They now have two children.

"I have five embryos that were created (using IVF); three that were deemed to be nonviable, would not survive," Duckworth said.

She said that at the time, in 2013, her doctor told her that if "personhood laws" regarding embryos were to be enacted, "I could be convicted of manslaughter or murder for discarding these three eggs that were nonviable."

Reproductive rights are expected to be a major issue in this year's presidential and congressional campaigns, with Democrats lashing out at both the U.S. Supreme Court's 2022 ruling overturning its landmark Roe v. Wade case establishing a national right to abortion, as well as subsequent state reproductive rights actions such as the one on IVF.

In a statement Wednesday, White House spokesperson Karine Jean-Pierre said the Republican blocking of Duckworth's measure was "outrageous."

Jean-Pierre added that President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris "will continue to fight to protect access to reproductive health care, including IVF, and call on Congress to restore the protections of Roe v. Wade in federal law for all women in every state."

By:  Richard Cowan