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Senate falls short on IVF vote

Ariel Cohen and Sandhya Raman, CQ-Roll Call on

Published in News & Features

WASHINGTON — The Senate on Thursday fell short of the votes needed to move forward on legislation that would protect access to and expand coverage of commonly used fertility treatments, with just two Republicans joining Democrats in support of the legislation.

Interest in protecting access to and demonstrating support for fertility treatments such as in vitro fertilization, otherwise known as IVF, have skyrocketed following a February Alabama Supreme Court ruling recognizing frozen embryos as unborn children.

IVF involves the union of an egg and sperm outside the body. The fertilized egg is later implanted into a woman’s uterus to increase the odds of pregnancy. Fertilized eggs are sometimes discarded during the process if they are not growing properly or if a family has more fertilized eggs than they need.

The Senate’s IVF legislative package combines language from four smaller IVF bills from Sens. Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill., Patty Murray, D-Wash., and Cory Booker, D-N.J.

The final vote was 48-47, with Republicans Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska joining Democrats in voting to end debate and move forward on the legislation. The Senate requires 60 votes to move forward on the bill.

At the end of the vote, Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y., changed his vote from yes to no, so he could bring up the legislation later under Senate rules.

Before the vote, Democrats described the vote as an uncontroversial moral decision: either vote to protect families’ access to IVF or stand in the way.

“Today, we are putting Republicans on the record on an issue families across the country are deeply concerned about — the right to IVF,” Murray said from the Senate floor.

Some senators told personal stories. Schumer, also an original co-sponsor of the bill, talked about how his grandchild was born because of IVF.

Duckworth spoke of how she would not have been able to have children if not for IVF, telling her colleagues that the pain of miscarriages was worse than any wound she suffered while serving in the military.

But Republicans accused Democrats of distorting facts and politicizing a deeply personal issue for political gain.

Sen. Bill Cassidy, R-La., argued that no states currently ban IVF, and said the Alabama legislature passed a law protecting IVF after the court decision. Cassidy also criticized Democrats for not getting a Congressional Budget Office score for the bill and not going through the committee process.

“This is not serious legislation. It was not brought through the committee process. It is a political process,” Cassidy said.

 

The package includes language from two bills from Duckworth, who has long spoken about her personal experience using IVF.

One would establish a statutory right for health practitioners to provide IVF, patients to seek these services and for insurance plans to cover these treatments without interference.

The second would require health plans and insurers participating in the Federal Employees Health Benefit program to cover fertility treatments.

The package also included language from a bill sponsored by Booker that would require employer-sponsored plans to cover fertility treatments.

Finally, it included language from Murray’s bill that would expand fertility treatments covered through the Department of Defense and the Department of Veterans Affairs, including cryopreservation ahead of deployment and IVF.

Some state laws and advocacy groups argue that life begins at conception as opposed to implantation, a debate which has triggered a reckoning among Republican lawmakers who want to support IVF but oppose destroying viable embryos.

SBA Pro-Life America has opposed existing IVF legislation offered from both parties, seeking additional ethical protections before endorsing bills.

Senate Republicans have pushed for an alternative IVF bill from Sens. Katie Britt, R-Ala. and Ted Cruz, R-Texas, that would require states that receive federal Medicaid funds to not prohibit IVF. The pair introduced the bill in May.

Sen. Rick Scott, R-Fla., announced a seven-figure ad buy in early June stating his commitment to protecting IVF access. Scott is not a co-sponsor of either the GOP or the Democrat-led bill.

The vote comes just one day after thousands of delegates at the Southern Baptist Convention voted to formally oppose IVF, a vote largely symbolic of when evangelicals believe personhood begins.

The resolution called on the government to restrain actions inconsistent with the dignity “of every human being,” including embryos.

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©2024 CQ-Roll Call, Inc., All Rights Reserved. Visit cqrollcall.com. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

 

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