Democrats unveil legislation outlining plan for right to fertility treatments

Democrats unveil legislation outlining plan for right to fertility treatments

A trio of Democratic lawmakers on Thursday introduced a bill that would protect access to assisted reproductive technologies such as in vitro fertilization (IVF), as organizations that support abortion access fear Republicans will continue such treatments in the future.

Democratic senses Tammy Duckworth (Ill.) and Patty Murray (Wash.) and Rep. Susan Wild (D-Pa.) have introduced a bill titled “The Right to Found Families Act of 2022,” which would ban States limit a person’s right to access fertility treatments or a health care provider’s ability to provide such services.

“The Republicans’ extreme abortion bans force women to remain pregnant against their will and, at the same time, threaten Americans’ ability to have families through services like IVF. It’s hard to fathom, and it’s just plain wrong,” Murray said in a statement.

Duckworth, who underwent IVF treatments to conceive her two children, agreed that the reversal of Roe v. Wade had raised concerns among Americans about access to reproductive technologies.

When abortion bans went into effect in several states earlier this year with the reversal of Roe, infertility patients and healthcare providers expressed concern that treatments like IVF could be at risk.

Judith Daar, a law professor at Northern Kentucky University, told NPR earlier this year that state legislatures will need to determine how IVF is affected, perhaps indirectly or inadvertently, by abortion laws.

“If the legislature regards unborn human life in its earliest moments as something worth protecting over other interests, including the interest of patients and the education of their families, then restrictive laws to in vitro fertilization could be advanced,” Daar said.

IVF involves the collection of mature eggs which are then fertilized in a laboratory before being transferred to a uterus, frozen or discarded. As some states have enacted laws that use the term “unborn child” to refer to an embryo from conception, patients and providers fear that IVF services will fall under the control of hardline lawmakers.

Several embryos can be created in a successful IVF cycle and several can be transferred. However, not all embryos are always transferred and many end up being abandoned or discarded, which can happen because the intended parents have not responded to clinic inquiries or because there are signs that the embryo presents anomalies incompatible with life.

The bill introduced Thursday would not only protect access to assisted reproductive technology, but also give the Justice Department the power to bring civil action against entities that break the law.

Some Republican state lawmakers have already discussed further regulation of IVF in the post-Roe era. ProPublica obtained recordings of a meeting between Tennessee GOP lawmakers and anti-abortion activists in which they discussed the possibility of enacting birth control and IVF regulations in a few years.

Tennessee Attorney General Jonathan Skrmetti (right) clarified that his state’s abortion ban does not apply to embryos that have not been transferred to a uterus and that the corresponding disposal does not would not be treated as a criminal abortion.

Former New Hampshire Republican Senate candidate Don Bolduc had indicated he would intervene to stop the disposal of embryos in recordings obtained by Vanity Fair earlier this year, calling it a “disgusting practice”. Bolduc ultimately lost to incumbent Democratic Senator Maggie Hassan.

GOP leaders in Congress have not commented on the potential for increased regulation of IVF and embryo disposal. Some Republicans have recently expressed personal support for the treatment.

Former Vice President Mike Pence voiced his support for IVF protection in an interview last month, saying, “I fully support fertility treatments and believe they deserve the protection of the law,” while while appearing on CBS’ “Face the Nation.” Pence and his wife Karen Pence have undergone several rounds of IVF treatments themselves.

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