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Senate Democrats prepare for IVF push

Push comes after Alabama Supreme Court ruling regarding frozen embryos

Sen. Tammy Duckworth speaks Tuesday during Senate Democrats’ news conference in the Capitol to discuss the Alabama Supreme Court ruling on in vitro fertilization.
Sen. Tammy Duckworth speaks Tuesday during Senate Democrats’ news conference in the Capitol to discuss the Alabama Supreme Court ruling on in vitro fertilization. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Senate Democrats hope to fast-track a vote to protect access to in vitro fertilization on Wednesday as federal and local politicians grapple with how states should handle fertility treatments.

Sen. Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill., said Tuesday she will ask for unanimous consent to pass her bill that would create a statutory right to access IVF.

The announcement follows a recent Alabama Supreme Court decision that frozen embryos used in IVF are considered unborn children under the state constitution’s personhood rights. The court decision has led to Democrats doubling down on calls to protect IVF and other forms of assisted reproductive technology, and many Republicans, including former President Donald Trump, publicly distancing themselves from efforts that would restrict IVF.

House Republicans, in particular, have faced criticism over support for legislation that would define life at conception while rallying behind IVF in the wake of the Alabama ruling. 

“They are now desperately backpedaling over the last few days because they see what they have done,” said Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y., speaking at a news conference Tuesday. “They know they’re like the dog who caught the bus. They play ball with these far-right ideologues.”

Duckworth, a longtime advocate for IVF, said she has “not heard anything” from her Republican colleagues on support for her bill since the ruling.

“For all the Republicans to suddenly claim that they support IVF, it’s been crickets,” said Duckworth.

Her last attempt to unanimously pass the bill in December 2022 was blocked by Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith, R-Miss.

But Duckworth said if the bill is blocked again she would “love” a roll call vote to get senators on the record.

“If you’re genuinely, actually, honestly interested in protecting IVF, then you need to show it by not blocking this bill on the floor tomorrow,” Duckworth said. “It’s nowhere near enough to send out a vaguely worded tweet suggesting that you care about women’s rights despite the voting records to the absolute contrary.”

Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions ranking member Bill Cassidy, R-La., speaking Tuesday, said he supports IVF but “didn’t think” that federal action was needed to protect IVF.

South Dakota Republican Sen. Mike Rounds, meanwhile, said that while he does think IVF needs to be a part of future discussions, he would like “to see what the individual states come up with for different approaches to it before we try to do something.”

Senate Appropriations Chairwoman Patty Murray, D-Wash., said the streamlined unanimous consent option is important given the current tight timeline for must-pass items and the start of work on next year’s spending bills.

“There is no reason to take hours on end, days on end, to pass this legislation,” said Murray, who envisioned that the process could take several weeks in the Senate. “The same people who are going to block the UC are going to use every procedural move to not let it pass.”

Valerie Yurk, Niels Lesniewski and Briana Reilly contributed to this report.

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