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Dems plan legislative push on IVF protections

Feb 27, 2024
Illustration of a spotlight shining on an IVF injection close up.

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

Senate Democrats are amping up a legislative push to guarantee a federal right to IVF in the wake of the Alabama Supreme Court decision that frozen embryos are considered children.

Why it matters: Fallout from the decision and how it could restrict reproductive health services is playing into election-year messaging, with Democrats saying it's the next step in an anti-abortion agenda and Republicans rushing to say they're supportive of IVF.

State of play: The Democratic push is centered around the Access to Family Building Act, which would guarantee the right to access IVF and other fertility treatments, shield clinics and other providers and pre-empt any state restrictions.

  • The legislation is sponsored by Sens. Tammy Duckworth and Patty Murray and Rep. Susan Wild. An earlier version introduced in the wake of the Supreme Court decision striking Roe v. Wade stalled amid GOP opposition.
  • Duckworth said this morning that she's planning to request unanimous consent to bring up the bill tomorrow.
  • "This should be obvious legislation," Duckworth said. "If you truly care about the sanctity of families. If you are genuinely, actually, honestly interested in protecting IVF, then you need to show it by not blocking this bill on the floor tomorrow."
  • Wild and other House Democrats are exploring options on the House side, her office said.

The other side: There's been a rush from Republican politicians to denounce the Alabama decision. But missing from most GOP statements is a clear-cut stance on what should be done with leftover embryos, which are sometimes destroyed in the IVF process.

  • House Speaker Mike Johnson said in a statement that he supports IVF treatment and applauded efforts in the Alabama legislature to ensure treatment remains available.
  • The National Republican Senatorial Campaign released talking points on Friday for Senate candidates, urging them to "clearly and concisely reject efforts by the government to restrict IVF," according to a copy obtained by Axios' Stef Kight and Stephen Neukam.
  • Rep. Nancy Mace also told Axios that she was planning to file legislation or a resolution to push back against the IVF ruling, and other House Republicans have spoken out against it.

Meanwhile, House Democrats' main super PAC is planning to spend heavily attacking Republicans in competitive districts who have co-sponsored versions of legislation that would grant legal protection at the moment of fertilization.

What they're saying: So far Duckworth's IVF bill has no Republican co-sponsors. Several GOP senators said Monday night that they support IVF but hedged on supporting the bill, saying they need to look at the legislation and adding it could pose states' rights issue.

  • "I don't know what the path is for Congress in that regard," said Sen. Mitt Romney. "I'll take a look at it. I didn't think it was needed until now. I understand that states are looking at their laws as well."
  • "At this stage of the game I'm not prepared to try to get into that with legislation until we actually see how a number of states come up with different solutions on their own," said Sen. Mike Rounds.

What we're watching: Such sentiments suggest Republicans will block unanimous consent on the IVF bill tomorrow, as they did in 2022, when Duckworth requested it on similar legislation.

  • If that happens, Duckworth expressed the desire for a roll call vote on whether to proceed, "to get them on the record."
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