Mar 11, 2024 - News

Tennessee bill to codify IVF protection fails

Illustration of the Tennessee State Capitol building with lines radiating from it.

Illustration: Allie Carl/Axios

A bill to protect in vitro fertility treatments from Tennessee's strict abortion ban failed in a House subcommittee last week.

Why it matters: There's a push to protect IVF treatments in the law following a ruling by the Alabama Supreme Court, which found that frozen embryos should be considered children.

State of play: Reproductive rights advocates led by the Tennessee Freedom Circle sought to clarify that fertility treatments are protected under Tennessee law.

  • The proposed legislation also would have protected contraception approved by the federal Food and Drug Administration.

Zoom in: Gov. Bill Lee said he supports IVF treatments. A 2022 legal opinion by Tennessee Attorney General Jonathan Skrmetti concluded that fertility treatments are not banned under the abortion law.

  • Despite Lee's support and the AG opinion, advocates worry a legal gray area, similar to what happened in Alabama, could arise here. To avoid that, they said, explicit protections are needed.

Driving the news: In its meeting on Tuesday, the House population health subcommittee rejected the bill from Rep. Harold Love, D-Nashville. Republican lawmakers expressed doubt during the meeting that clarifying language is necessary.

  • "It is legal here in Tennessee," said Rep. Bryan Terry of Murfreesboro. "And there's not something that anybody's doing to not make that legal here in Tennessee."

The latest: In his State of the Union speech on Thursday, President Biden urged Congress to protect IVF treatments.

By the numbers: 1,025 infants were born in Tennessee in 2021 with the use of assisted reproductive technologies like IVF, according to the most recent CDC data.

  • That accounts for 1.3% of all births in Tennessee that year.

More than 2,055 embryo transfers were performed in Tennessee to get that number of infants.

What's next: Tyler Chance Yarbro, who chairs the Tennessee Freedom Circle advocacy group, tells Axios her organization will focus on "educating and engaging with lawmakers across the political spectrum."

avatar

Get more local stories in your inbox with Axios Nashville.

🌱

Support local journalism by becoming a member.

Learn more

More Nashville stories

No stories could be found

Nashvillepostcard

Get a free daily digest of the most important news in your backyard with Axios Nashville.

🌱

Support local journalism by becoming a member.

Learn more