Senate Republicans Go On-Record Against IVF—Again

Thursday's vote against the Right to IVF Act marks the third time since 2022 that Republican senators blocked Sen. Tammy Duckworth's bill, which would codify a federal right to provide and receive IVF.

Politics
Senate Republicans Go On-Record Against IVF—Again
Republican Sens. Jim Risch (R-ID), Katie Britt (R-AL), Ted Cruz (R-TX), Lindsey Graham (R-SC) at a press conference in May. Photo: Shutterstock
If I had a nickel for every time Senate Republicans blocked a common-sense bill to establish a federal right to IVF, I’d have 15 cents, which is very unnerving. On Thursday afternoon, by a 48-47 margin, Senate Republicans—sans Sens. Susan Collins (ME) and Lisa Murkowski (AK)—blocked Sen. Tammy Duckworth’s (D-IL) Right to IVF Act, which wouldc odify a federal right to IVF and prohibit states from restricting access to fertility technology. They also blocked Duckworth’s same bill back in February, and again in December 2022.

The vote comes just one day after all 49 Republican senators signed a letter stating their support for IVF—all while, time and again, they decline to take any action to protect it amid rising, post-Roe threats. In reality, despite Republicans’ stated support, many of them hold the position that “life begins at conception”—bills like their Life at Conception Act are inherently at odds with IVF, which requires the routine destruction of unused embryos.

Republicans didn’t even bother to explain why they opposed Duckworth’s bill on Thursday, other than accusing Democrats of, as Sen. Katie Britt (R-AL) put it, engaging in “partisan electoral politics.” Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO) ambiguously claimed Duckworth’s bill would require “a lot of changes to state law” without specifying any. When Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-MS) blocked Duckworth’s IVF bill in February, she called it a “vast overreach” and “full of poison pills that go way too far.”

In May, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Britt introduced a bill claiming to protect IVF by threatening to strip states that ban the fertility technology of their Medicaid funding; however, the bill permits states to impose restrictions and regulations on the IVF process, which fertility experts warn can still lead to IVF being pushed out of reach. Mini Timmaraju, the president of Reproductive Freedom for All (formerly NARAL), called their bill a “blatant and hypocritical attempt for two staunchly anti-abortion Republicans to try to save face with voters.” So, for those reasons, when Cruz and Britt tried to bring their bill to a vote via unanimous consent on Wednesday, Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) blocked it.

Duckworth, who had both of her two children through IVF, excoriated Cruz and Britt’s bill at a Wednesday press conference: “Calling your bill The IVF Protection Act without doing anything to protect IVF is despicable,” she said. “It is akin to an arsonist selling you fire insurance that doesn’t cover arson.”

“My battle with infertility was one of the most heartbreaking struggles of my life. My miscarriage [was] more painful than any wound I earned in Iraq,” Duckworth continued. “So, excuse me if I took it personally when the same Republicans who rely on NRA blood money to get elected, suggested that women like me are committing acts akin to murder when all we’re trying to do is create life and not to have to suffer through more miscarriages.”

Republican senators have continued to be shifty on where they stand on IVF. Back in February, Alabama’s very own Sen. Tommy Tuberville flip-flopped through answering a basic question on the Alabama Supreme Court’s ruling, first emphatically stating that he supports IVF, then saying he’d actually have to read the bill (there was no bill, it was a court ruling). Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) previously said that “unfortunately,” the creation of unused embryos in the IVF process poses a “quandary.” Sen. Joni Ernst (R-IA) has said she supports IVF, but wouldn’t say embryos aren’t children, which is inherently at odds with supporting IVF. Over in the House, Speaker Mike Johnson in March called on lawmakers “to look at the ethics surrounding” IVF: “If you do believe that life begins at conception, it’s a really important question to wrestle with.”

While the ostensibly pro-family party can’t seem to decide whether or not they support IVF, the Southern Baptist Convention—the largest and most powerful Protestant denomination in the U.S.— voted to oppose IVF on Wednesday, through a resolution that claims IVF “participates in the destruction of embryonic human life.”

Thursday’s vote comes fresh off the heels of Senate Republicans blocking the Right to Contraception Act just last week. They justified that vote by making entirely false claims that equated Plan B and IUDs with abortion. It’s been two years now since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, and this is apparently where we’re at.

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