Republican Sen. James Lankford blocks bill that would provide IVF to more veterans - TAI News
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A Republican senator on Tuesday blocked passage of a bill that would have expanded access to assisted reproductive technologies provided by the U.S. Department of Defense, such as in vitro fertilization, to all veterans, the latest instance of a GOP lawmaker blocking legislation that would protect and expand IVF access.

Sen. James Lankford (R-OK) objected to an effort by Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) to pass the Veteran Families Health Service Act of 2023 by unanimous consent. Unanimous consent is a procedure  used to pass legislation quickly, without a roll call vote, but just one senator can object and block its passage. 

“I am a Republican who is passionate about the value of every single child and also doesn’t have an issue with IVF. I have an issue with the bill before the Senate because it has overly broad definitions — opening the door for human cloning, embryo discrimination, and much more,” Lankford tweeted.

Currently, covered veterans are only eligible for assisted reproductive technology provided by the Defense Department if they have a service-connected injury or illness that prevents them from conceiving. The Veteran Families Health Service Act of 2023 would drop that requirement and allow any veteran who cannot conceive without assisted reproductive technology to access care, including veterans who are single or in same-sex relationships. 

This is the second time in less than a month that a Republican has blocked Democrats’ attempts to pass legislation that would protect and expand access to IVF. 

On Feb. 28, Senate Democrats attempted to pass a bill that would have codified the right to access assisted reproductive technologies in the United States, but the bill was blocked by Mississippi Republican Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith. 

That effort was in direct response to a ruling by the Alabama Supreme Court that fertilized embryos have the same legal protections as people. The ruling led fertility clinics in the state to pause IVF treatments out of fear they could face criminal penalties if they discarded embryos for any reason. Alabama has since passed a law shielding fertility clinics from liability “for death or damage to an embryo,” and at least one fertility clinic has resumed IVF procedures in the state. 

While Murray’s bill to expand Defense Department provision of IVF services to veterans failed, the Biden administration on Monday announced that it was changing policy to provide IVF treatment to unmarried veterans and veterans in same-sex partnerships. The Biden administration had already expanded access to IVF in January to currently serving service members who are unmarried or in same-sex relationships. 

Previous policy allowed only married veterans who could produce their own embryos — both the egg and the sperm used to fertilize it — to receive IVF benefits, excluding single veterans and veterans in same-sex partnerships.

Now veterans can use donor eggs, sperm, and embryos in IVF procedures, but they still can only receive care through the department if they are needed due to service-connected injuries or health conditions. 

“Raising a family is a wonderful thing, and I’m proud that VA will soon help more Veterans have that opportunity,” Veterans Affairs Secretary Denis McDonough said in a news release. “This expansion of care has long been a priority for us, and we are working urgently to make sure that eligible unmarried Veterans, Veterans in same-sex marriages, and Veterans who need donors will have access to IVF in every part of the country as soon as possible.”

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