What about the children? Republicans' attack on IVF is an attack on family values.

The thought of in vitro fertilization being unattainable for military families is a slap in the face for service members who are unable to conceive. This shouldn’t be a political issue, but leave it to Republicans to weaponize and oppose legislation supporting access to IVF.

On Thursday, Republicans in the Senate blocked passage of the Right to IVF Act, introduced by Democratic Sens. Tammy Duckworth of Illinois, Cory Booker of New Jersey and Patty Murray of Washington.

The block came after Republicans' recent unsuccessful attempt to pass an alternate IVF bill, the IVF Protection Act, introduced by Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas. That bill would have withheld Medicaid funding to states that ban IVF, but it did not address the legal implications of discarding nonviable embryos.

In February, the Alabama Supreme Court ruled that embryos created through IVF should be considered children, making the discarding of embryos a crime. A month later, Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey signed legislation that provides civil and criminal immunity to medical professionals and patients if embryos are destroyed or damaged during IVF procedures.

Last week, the Southern Baptist Convention, the nation's largest Protestant denomination, passed a nonbinding resolution that opposes the use of IVF and calls on church members to “only utilize reproductive technologies” that affirm “the unconditional value and right to life of every human being.”

The Roman Catholic Church, with an estimated 52 million adult members in the United States, has long opposed the use of IVF.

Some commentators have predicted that opposition to IVF is the next crusade for opponents of abortion two years after Roe v. Wade was overturned.

Infertility rates are higher among military families

Sen. Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill., speaks alongside Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., on June 12, 2024, on Capitol Hill about the Right to IVF Act.
Sen. Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill., speaks alongside Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., on June 12, 2024, on Capitol Hill about the Right to IVF Act.

It's an issue of profound importance to military families. Active-duty female troops experience infertility at rates three times that of civilian American women, according to Military.com.

A 2018 survey found that 37% of active-duty women reported struggles with infertility, while 30% of female veterans said they experienced infertility while trying to get pregnant.

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Many military members and veterans, including Sen. Duckworth, have relied on IVF to conceive children. But Tricare, the military’s health insurer, does not cover assisted reproductive technology under general circumstances.

Sens. Duckworth and Murray introduced the Veteran Families Health Services Act last year. It includes provisions to improve fertility treatment coverage for veterans and allow service members to freeze their eggs or sperm before deployment without expensive storage fees.

IVF is unaffordable for most military families

The out-of-pocket cost for IVF averages around $15,000 and can sometimes exceed $30,000.

With the average military pay rate at $40,000 a year, most military members suffering from infertility simply can't afford to conceive using IVF.

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Military spouses like Julie Eshelman, founder and CEO of the Building Military Families Network, and Courtney Deady, the 2024 Armed Forces Insurance National Guard Military Spouse of the Year, have taken their fight for access to IVF for military families to the Senate, including advocating for affordable care and interstate access to treatment.

For military members, who move frequently, there is a heightened concern about access to IVF in conservative-led states.

When asked about the Senate's decision to block the IVF bill, Deady said: "The failure to pass the IVF bills is a devastating blow to families, denying them the chance to pursue their dreams of parenthood and perpetuating inequality in access to reproductive health care. It casts a shadow of despair over families struggling with infertility, leaving them without crucial support and potentially forcing them to confront financial and emotional burdens on their journey to conception."

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Affordable access to comprehensive health care should be a given for Americans. The Right to IVF Act includes measures to prevent states from imposing restrictions on IVF and to make the treatment more affordable. Denying military families access to IVF treatments not only disregards the profound sacrifices made by service members but also perpetuates a system of inequity and neglect within military health care.

By providing affordable IVF options, we can uphold the values of fairness and support that are integral to the military community, ultimately reinforcing the nation's gratitude and responsibility toward its service members.

Marla Bautista is a military fellow columnist for USA TODAY Opinion.

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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Why did GOP oppose IVF bill? Fertility care is critical for families