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Editorial: Embrace, don't restrict, use of IVF

Star Tribune, Star Tribune on

Published in Op Eds

Opinion editor's note: Editorials represent the opinions of the Star Tribune Editorial Board, which operates independently from the newsroom.

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A child's hug at the end of a long workday is a happy moment for any parent. But it's extra emotional for Liz McLoone Dybvig of St. Paul, Minnesota, because her path to motherhood wasn't an easy one.

After trying for more than five years to have children, the Dybvig family turned to a fertility treatment known as in vitro fertilization (IVF). They now have two boys, Daly, 5, and Henrik, 2. It's clear as Dybvig recounts the joy occurring almost daily — picking up Daly from day care — that she has never stopped counting her blessings.

"I just believe this was my path from God," Dybvig said. "It was harder, but that's OK. The combination of science and God is a powerful thing. We should embrace that."

Like many Minnesotans who've relied on IVF, Dybvig is increasingly concerned about access to this medical procedure for others struggling to have children. These concerns are valid. After an Alabama court ruling declared that frozen embryos are human beings, high-profile health care systems in that state suspended IVF care. Unfortunately, a bill introduced in Congress called the " Life At Conception Act " would likely have a similar chilling effect on IVF availability nationwide.

The bill's chief author is Rep. Alexander Mooney, a West Virginia Republican. It's still a long way from passing. Nevertheless, there's strong support in the House for this poorly thought-out legislation. It currently has 124 cosponsors, all of them Republican and three from Minnesota: Reps. Brad Finstad, Michelle Fischbach and Pete Stauber.

The three should reconsider their positions and reach out to IVF families in Minnesota to better understand why so many are alarmed that the bill would harm, not help, families. IVF involves collecting eggs from a woman's ovaries, with fertilization taking place in a laboratory, then transferring the embryo into the uterus. There may be unused embryos that are then frozen for potential future use.

The Life At Conception Act, or HR 431, "declares that the right to life guaranteed by the Constitution is vested in each human being at all stages of life, including the moment of fertilization, cloning, or other moment at which an individual comes into being," according to the Congress.gov summary. Alabama providers' concerns reportedly involve criminal or civil liability for the storage or disposal of embryos created during IVF.

Alabama lawmakers are now scrambling to enact protections so that doctors can continue to provide this care. So it makes zero sense to pass federal legislation like the Life At Conception Act that could have similar, hurtful consequences nationwide.

 

An editorial writer emailed a request to Finstad, Fischbach and Stauber to explain their support for the bill but received no reply. However, Minnesota families who have relied on IVF had plenty to say to these lawmakers.

Miraya Gran of Bloomington suffered seven miscarriages before IVF enabled the birth of her daughter. In an interview, she said that the three lawmakers likely support HR 431 because of their "pro-life" beliefs. At the same time, "I'm trying to build a family and you're trying to stop me," she said. "Don't I have a right to become a parent? Don't I have a right to seek this medical treatment? What makes your beliefs stronger than mine?"

The Hunstad family of Chaska also turned to IVF and now has a 1-year-old son. Isaac Hunstad noted that there are many people who struggle with fertility. The proposed legislation would impact a lot of lives, he said, and prevent those who long for children from having them. Hunstad said his frustration and other feelings couldn't be described in words fit to print.

Dybvig shares this alarm, saying that the bill could go down a "dangerous road" where people cannot get the care they deserve. "It just hurts my heart. It's mean. There's no need for it," she said.

According to federal health officials, approximately 2.3% of all infants born in the United States every year are conceived using assisted reproductive technology, which includes IVF.

Fortunately, there is a different bill in Congress to protect IVF access. Sen. Tammy Duckworth, an Illinois Democrat who relied on IVF to have her children, is the chief author of the " Access to Family Building Act," which would override state restrictions on assisted reproductive technology. Duckworth has introduced the bill previously but "in 2022, Senate Republicans blocked the vote," CBS News reports.

The recent Alabama ruling has understandably galvanized supporters. Duckworth's bill has 44 co-sponsors, including Minnesota Sens. Amy Klobuchar and Tina Smith. The legislation merits swift passage, though it's shameful that it's needed.

"IVF is a miracle for millions of families, and no politician or court should interfere with that," Klobuchar said in a statement to an editorial writer. "We must act now to preserve women's reproductive freedom. That's why I'm co-sponsoring this bill with Senator Duckworth to ensure IVF remains legal and accessible for Americans who want to start or grow their families. We will keep fighting to put women back in charge of their own health care and their own destiny."

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©2024 StarTribune. Visit at startribune.com. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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