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Senate Republican blocks bill to protect IVF treatment

by SuperiorInvest

A Republican senator on Wednesday blocked the quick passage of a bill that would establish federal protections for in vitro fertilization and other fertility treatments following a ruling by the Alabama Supreme Court that frozen embryos should be considered children.

Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith, R-Mississippi, opposed passage of the measure, which would establish a federal right protecting access to IVF and fertility treatments, ruining its chances for now.

Sen. Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill., attempted to pass the bill Wednesday using a procedure that allows any senator to object and stop it in its tracks, effectively daring Republicans to oppose it and highlighting divisions within the GOP over how to handle the bill. issue. .

“The bill before us today is a gross overreach that is full of poison pills that go too far, far beyond ensuring legal access to IVF,” Hyde-Smith said on the Senate floor, adding that he supported access to IVF, but that “this bill misses the mark.”

The legislation states that people have the right to “access assisted reproductive technology” (and that doctors have the right to provide it and insurers the right to cover it) without fear of prosecution.

Democrats orchestrated the attempt to pass the bill with the goal of pointing out the hypocrisy of Republicans who were quick to express their support for IVF after the Alabama ruling, even though many of them have sponsored legislation declaring that life begins at the moment of fertilization. Such a bill could severely restrict or even prohibit aspects of treatments.

“This is really to get the attention of my Republican colleagues,” Duckworth, who had two daughters through IVF treatment, said in an interview Wednesday. “If this is urgent and you care deeply as you say you do, as you have been saying in the last 72 hours since the Alabama Supreme Court ruling, then don't object. Let this bill be approved.” She argued that the bill's protections were even more essential since the legal decision.

The action was the latest example of Republicans trying to walk a political tightrope (made more dangerous by the Alabama ruling) since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade and realized the fears of many Americans of losing their access to reproductive health care. Democrats have vowed to hit Republicans on the issue this election year, encouraged by polls showing that access to abortion and contraception is a major concern for voters that could turn them away from Republicans.

“Make no mistake: What happened in Alabama is a direct consequence, a direct consequence, of the far-right MAGA Supreme Court's decision to overturn Roe v. Wade,” said Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y. and majority leader. he said Tuesday. “And make no mistake about it: There will be other horrible, restrictive decisions that will emanate from the Dobbs decision.”

At least three medical providers in Alabama have suspended IVF treatments since the ruling, which arose from cases brought by couples whose embryos were destroyed in 2020 when a hospital patient removed frozen embryos from tanks of liquid nitrogen and dumped them on the ground.

Duckworth previously attempted to pass a similar bill with unanimous consent in 2022, but Hyde-Smith opposed it. Duckworth said before Wednesday's action that he planned to call for a roll call vote on the bill if Republicans blocked it, and that Schumer was “very much in favor” of scheduling a vote after Congress funds the government before a couple deadlines for closing. this week and next.

Some Republicans have said they would examine the bill, but most argued that it should be up to state legislatures (not the federal government) to protect fertility treatments. They tried to cast the Alabama ruling as an outlier and said the Legislature would surely act soon to protect IVF.

“The Dobbs decision said abortion is not part of the Constitution and they sent the issue back to the states. And I think that's where it belongs,” said Sen. John Kennedy, R-Louisiana, referring to the Supreme Court decision that overturned Roe. “But I do support fertility technology.”

Sen. Mike Rounds, R-South Dakota, said he wanted to see how states could address IVF protections before considering federal legislation.

“As these individual states look at the different issues surrounding this particular issue, they will come up with a number of different ideas about how to approach it,” Mr. Rounds said Tuesday. “I personally think IVF should be part of our future discussions.”

Sen. Mike Braun, R-Indiana, said he believed the Alabama Legislature would pass protections for IVF, making a federal law unnecessary.

“If it needs federal legislation, I'll be open to considering anything, but I mean, it was done in a very isolated way,” Braun said of the Alabama ruling. He added that each state would “fight” over whether frozen embryos should be considered children.

In 2021, along with 15 other Republicans, Kennedy, Rounds and Braun co-sponsored the Life at Conception Act, which would recognize a fertilized egg as a person entitled to equal protection under the 14th Amendment. If enacted, it could severely restrict IVF treatments, which typically involve the creation of multiple embryos. Only one is implanted while the others are frozen to allow for later attempts at successful implantation.

The same bill gained 166 Republican cosponsors in the House, including Rep. Mike Johnson of Louisiana, the current chairman, who on Friday issued a statement in support of IVF.

The measure was reintroduced in the House in January 2023, but some Republicans who had previously sponsored it (including some facing tough re-election races in districts won by President Biden in 2020) have refrained from signing it again. It has not been reintroduced in the Senate.

Anti-abortion activists heralded Alabama's decision as a step toward broader acceptance of fetal personhood, even as Republicans sought to distance themselves from the implication that fertility treatments could be in jeopardy.

“It's been incredible to watch Republicans scramble over the weekend to suddenly support IVF, while many of those same Republicans are literally, right now, cosponsors of legislation that would enshrine fetal personhood,” the spokeswoman said Tuesday. Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash. “You cannot support IVF and laws on the personality of the fetus. They are fundamentally incompatible. You're not fooling anyone.”

In the House, Rep. Nancy Mace, R-S.C., circulated a nonbinding resolution Tuesday declaring support for access to IVF and other fertility treatments. But the measure is purely symbolic and does not protect either of them.

Democrats said they would have no qualms about reminding voters of Republicans' record on the issue, which they believe will turn moderate and independent voters away from the GOP.

“Women are not just going to forget who is responsible for this, who uprooted their dreams of starting their families,” Ms. Murray said. “This is what happens when Republican politicians take away women's power over their own bodies.”

Annie Karni contributed with reports.

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