Single Republican senator blocks bill that would have protected IVF - TAI News
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A Republican senator on Wednesday blocked passage of a bill that would have established federal protections of assisted reproductive technologies such as in vitro fertilization.

Democratic Sen. Tammy Duckworth of Illinois had moved to pass the Access to Family Building Act, which would “prohibit the limitation of access to assisted reproductive technology” in the United States, by unanimous consent. Unanimous consent is a way for senators to pass bills quickly, without the need for a roll-call vote. 

However, it takes just one senator objecting in order for unanimous consent to fail. Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith of Mississippi objected, dooming the legislation.

Duckworth tried to pass her legislation after the Alabama Supreme Court ruled on Feb. 16 that embryos have the legal status of children. That ruling has led fertility clinics in the state to put a pause on IVF treatments in fear that they could face criminal penalties if they discard embryos.

IVF is an assisted reproductive technology in which doctors harvest mature eggs from the ovaries, fertilize them with sperm to make embryos, and then transplant one or more of those embryos into a uterus in the hope that one will implant and be carried to term.

Multiple embryos are created during the IVF process, even if a patient wants only one child. The embryos created are genetically tested, and if some are found to be nonviable, they may then be discarded, as patients do not wish to undergo an invasive and costly procedure to transplant an embryo that either would not implant or would but would create a pregnancy that would later end in miscarriage.

A number of Senate Republicans had in recent days said they support IVF, despite having supported bills that would create “personhood” rights for embryos. 

Duckworth had tried to pass the Access to Family Building Act in December 2022, after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the landmark Roe v. Wade case that had affirmed the constitutional right to an abortion. Democrats and reproductive rights activists worried that IVF would wind up in the crosshairs of abortion bans that Republican legislators could legally pass after Roe was reversed. Hyde-Smith blocked the passage of that version of the bill as well.

In the wake of the Alabama ruling, Duckworth tried again to pass the bill, and along with Democratic co-sponsors Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin, Patty Murray of Washington, and Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, called for Republicans to “live up to the words that they’re saying, to not block it.”

But some Republican senators questioned whether Duckworth’s bill was necessary.

It’s not clear what will happen with Duckworth’s bill now. Democrats could put it up for a full vote by the Senate, putting all Republican senators on record with their votes.

Democrats say they will hammer Republicans in 2024 election campaigns for their support for personhood legislation, which would declare that life begins at conception and could lead to restrictions on the practice of IVF.

“Thanks to MAGA extremism, the United States is now an embarrassment to the world when it comes to reproductive freedom. Republicans own the consequences,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) tweeted after Hyde-Smith blocked the IVF bill’s passage. “Democrats will not stop fighting for IVF, for women’s health care, for reproductive freedom.”

“The [Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee] remains fully committed to supporting candidates who will stand up for our freedoms and our families, and holding Republicans accountable for doing the opposite with their extreme anti-abortion stances,” DCCC Chair Suzan DelBene said in a statement. “Come November, we’ll take back the House of Representatives to enshrine the protections of Roe once and for all.”

A new poll from Axios-Ipsos, taken between Feb. 23-25, found that 66% of Americans oppose considering frozen embryos as people and holding Alabama’s ruling that finds frozen embryos to be people, and that those who destroy frozen embryos are legally responsible. 

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