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Senate wades into abortion debate with IVF bill, Budget hearing

Sandhya Raman, CQ-Roll Call on

Published in News & Features

WASHINGTON — The Senate on Wednesday dove headlong into reproductive health issues, with Republicans blocking an effort to protect access to in vitro fertilization and the Budget Committee debating whether reproductive rights restrictions had an impact on the economy.

Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith, R-Miss., blocked an attempt by Sen. Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill., to fast-track a bill to protect access to IVF in the wake of an Alabama Supreme Court decision that frozen embryos used in IVF are considered unborn children under the state constitution’s personhood rights.

Hyde-Smith, who opposed an earlier version of Duckworth’s bill in 2022, once again opposed passing the bill, calling it a “vast overreach that is full of poison pills that go way too far.”

Still, she said, “I support the ability of mothers and fathers to have total access to IVF.”

Her comments were met with skepticism by Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash. “Spare me the empty statements, especially after the objection we just saw here,” Murray said after Hyde-Smith objected to passing the bill by unanimous consent.

Their exchange came hours after the Senate Budget Committee used a rare hearing on reproductive health to examine how and if abortion restrictions affect economic stability.

 

The hearing was the committee’s first foray into the economic impact of abortion restrictions and part of a broader wave of congressional panels delving into the abortion debate that appear to be increasing as Democrats increasingly see reproductive rights as the salient issue leading into the November elections and Republicans are increasingly shifting federal messaging to pregnancy-related resources.

At that hearing, Democrats argued that reproductive rights were key to economic strength.

“Any serious conversation about debt and deficits must also analyze threats to economic growth and stability,” said Chairman Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I. “Reproductive rights are intrinsically tied to economic opportunity.”

He pointed to a recent Institute for Women’s Policy Research study that estimates state abortion restrictions cost the national economy about $173 billion per year, and warned that a subsequent Republican administration could restrict access to medication abortion by mail and cause even larger effects.

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