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Senate Democrats to unveil protections for IVF

Jun 3

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A group of Democratic senators is unveiling a new legislative package to protect access to in vitro fertilization (IVF) on Monday, June 3, two years after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade. The Right to IVF Act is led by Sens. Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill., Patty Murray, D-Wash., and Cory Booker, D-N.J. The package includes four previously introduced bills that will preserve access to IVF and make it more affordable. 

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The four bills are the Access to Family Building Act, the Veteran Families Health Services Act, the Access to Infertility Treatment and Care Act, and the Family Building FEHB Fairness Act. FEHB stands for Federal Employees Health Benefit. 

The legislation would establish a statutory right for patients to access IVF, which has helped millions of families have children. It would also protect providers from legal liability, ensure service members and veterans have access to the procedure, and require more health insurers to cover fertility care. 

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IVF was brought back into the spotlight earlier in 2024 when Alabama’s Supreme Court ruled embryos are children under state law, which prompted providers to halt fertility treatments. The ruling left doctors and families in fear of being sued. 

During the IVF process, embryos are often discarded if they have genetic abnormalities or after patients decide they won’t need to use them.

Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey, R, later signed legislation shielding IVF providers from legal repercussions. 

In February, Duckworth tried to pass the Access to Family Building Act — which is included in the Right to IVF Act — by unanimous consent on the floor. It was blocked by Sen. Cindy Hyde Smith, R-Miss., who said in her objection that the Alabama decision “did not ban IVF, nor has any state banned IVF.” 

Sens. Katie Britt, R-Ala., and Ted Cruz, R-Texas, introduced their own proposal in May that claims to safeguard IVF. The IVF Protection Act would not compel providers to offer IVF, but states would lose Medicaid funding if they outright banned access to the procedure. 

That bill quickly got backlash from reproductive rights groups and Senate Democrats, who said it falls short because of its vague definition of the procedure that excludes discarding frozen embryos. They also said it does not explicitly prohibit states from implementing restrictive policies surrounding IVF. 

In March, the U.S. House of Representatives released similar legislation, which would stop states from prohibiting access to IVF from those who experiencing medical hardships having a child.

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[KARAH RUCKER]

A GROUP OF DEMOCRATIC SENATORS IS UNVEILING A NEW LEGISLATIVE PACKAGE TO PROTECT ACCESS TO IN VITRO FERTILIZATION ON MONDAY, JUNE 3. THE RIGHT TO IVF ACT IS LED BY SENS. TAMMY DUCKWORTH OF ILLINOIS, PATTY MURRAY OF WASHINGTON AND CORY BOOKER OF NEW JERSEY, AND INCLUDES FOUR BILLS TO PRESERVE ACCESS TO IVF AND MAKE IT MORE AFFORDABLE. 

THE FOUR BILLS, WHICH HAD BEEN INTRODUCED PREVIOUSLY, ARE THE ACCESS TO FAMILY BUILDING ACT, THE VETERAN FAMILIES HEALTH SERVICES ACT, THE ACCESS TO INFERTILITY TREATMENT AND CARE ACT AND THE FAMILY BUILDING FEHB FAIRNESS ACT. FEHB STANDS FOR FEDERAL EMPLOYEES HEALTH BENEFIT. 

THE LEGISLATION WOULD ESTABLISH A STATUTORY RIGHT FOR PATIENTS TO ACCESS IVF, WHICH HAS HELPED MILLIONS OF FAMILIES HAVE CHILDREN. IT WOULD ALSO PROTECT PROVIDERS FROM LEGAL LIABILITY, ENSURE SERVICE MEMBERS AND VETERANS HAVE ACCESS TO THE PROCEDURE, AND REQUIRE MORE HEALTH INSURERS TO COVER FERTILITY CARE. 

IVF WAS BROUGHT BACK INTO THE SPOTLIGHT EARLIER THIS YEAR WHEN ALABAMA’S SUPREME COURT RULED EMBRYOS ARE CHILDREN UNDER STATE LAW, WHICH PROMPTED PROVIDERS TO HALT FERTILITY TREATMENTS. THE RULING LEFT DOCTORS AND FAMILIES IN FEAR OF BEING SUED; DURING THE IVF PROCESS, EMBRYOS ARE OFTEN DISCARDED IF THEY HAVE GENETIC ABNORMALITIES OR AFTER PATIENTS DECIDE THEY WON’T NEED TO USE THEM. 

ALABAMA’S REPUBLICAN GOV. KAY IVEY LATER SIGNED LEGISLATION SHIELDING IVF PROVIDERS FROM LEGAL REPERCUSSIONS. 

IN FEBRUARY, SEN. DUCKWORTH TRIED TO PASS THE ACCESS TO FAMILY BUILDING ACT, WHICH IS INCLUDED IN THE RIGHT TO IVF ACT, BY UNANIMOUS CONSENT ON THE FLOOR. IT WAS BLOCKED BY REPUBLICAN SEN. CINDY HYDE SMITH OF MISSISSIPPI WHO SAID IN HER OBJECTION THAT THE ALABAMA DECISION “DID NOT BAN IVF, NOR HAS ANY STATE BANNED IVF.” 

SENS. KATIE BRITT, R-ALA., AND TED CRUZ, R-TEXAS, INTRODUCED THEIR OWN PROPOSAL THAT CLAIMS TO SAFEGUARD IVF LAST MONTH. THE IVF PROTECTION ACT WOULD NOT COMPEL PROVIDERS TO OFFER IVF, BUT STATES WOULD LOSE MEDICAID FUNDING IF THEY OUTRIGHT BANNED ACCESS TO THE PROCEDURE. 

THAT BILL QUICKLY GOT BACKLASH FROM REPRODUCTIVE RIGHTS GROUPS AND SENATE DEMOCRATS, WHO SAID IT FALLS SHORT BECAUSE OF ITS VAGUE DEFINITION OF THE PROCEDURE THAT EXCLUDES DISCARDING FROZEN EMBRYOS. THEY ALSO SAID IT DOES NOT EXPLICITLY PROHIBIT STATES FROM IMPLEMENTING RESTRICTIVE POLICIES SURROUNDING IVF.