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Republican senator from Mississippi blocks federal bill to protect IVF brought by Democrats

A Republican senator blocked a bill brought forth by a Democrat that would have protected access to in vitro fertilization treatments in the wake of Alabama's controversial ruling on embryos.

Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-Miss.) objected the bill Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D.-Ill.) brought to the floor Wednesday under unanimous consent, which expedites proceedings unless rejected by any senator.

Duckworth said the measure would have ensured access to infertility treatments like IVF in every state and protect doctors and parents from criminal liability for participating in those treatments.

But Hyde-Smith objected on the grounds that the bill went too far, saying that no state has banned IVF.

Earlier in February, Alabama's Supreme Court ruled that embryos are "extrauterine children" and legally protected like any other child. The decision led many providers in the state to halt IVF.

More: Embryos and the election: Will the Alabama IVF ruling change how people vote?

Duckworth speaks out about infertility, Hyde-Smith says she supports IVF

U.S. Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.) speaks during a news conference at the U.S. Capitol on protections for access to in vitro fertilization on February 27, 2024 in Washington, DC. She brought Access to Family Building Act to the floor by unanimous consent Wednesday but Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-Miss.) blocked it.
U.S. Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.) speaks during a news conference at the U.S. Capitol on protections for access to in vitro fertilization on February 27, 2024 in Washington, DC. She brought Access to Family Building Act to the floor by unanimous consent Wednesday but Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-Miss.) blocked it.

Duckworth, the second-term senator and Iraq War Veteran from Illinois, said she struggled with infertility for a decade in "one of the most heartbreaking struggles of (her) life."

She said she would not have been able to have her two kids if not for IVF.

"But for countless women in Alabama, that desperately sought-after dream of becoming a mom just became so much harder," she said.

Hyde-Smith is in her first full term, elected in 2020, after filling the a vacated seat in 2018. She is the first woman to represent Mississippi in the U.S. Senate, according to her website.

"I support the ability for mothers and fathers to have total access to IVF and bringing new life into the world," Hyde-Smith said in her objection. "I also believe human life should be protected."

She said the bill waived the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which Duckworth later disagreed with.

"The bill before us today is a vast overreach that is full of poison pills that go way too far," Hyde-Smith said.

After Hyde-Smith's objection, several senators spoke out in support of Duckworth, including Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Tim Kaine (D-Va.) and Patty Murray (D-Wash.).

Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-Miss.) arriving at the U.S. Capitol Building in October 2021. On Wednesday, Feb. 28, she objected to the Access to Family Building Act brought by unanimous consent by Den. Tammy Duckworth.
Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-Miss.) arriving at the U.S. Capitol Building in October 2021. On Wednesday, Feb. 28, she objected to the Access to Family Building Act brought by unanimous consent by Den. Tammy Duckworth.

Republicans come out in support of IVF, but mixed on Alabama ruling

Alabama Sen. Tommy Tuberville has spoken out in support of the state's Supreme Court ruling, emphasizing that the U.S. Supreme Court's decision that overturned Roe v. Wade put the decision back in the hands of the states.

His stance on IVF, however, was a bit more murky as he condemned the hospital's move to end IVF treatments.

The ruling put other U.S. Senate Republicans in a tough spot as well, as indicated by a memo that went out three days after the decision. National Republican Senatorial Committee executive director Jason Thielman cited the overwhelming support for fertility treatments, even among conservative voters, in the memo that encouraged senators to come out in support for IVF.

Thielman called the ruling "fodder for Democrats hoping to manipulate the abortion issue for electoral gain," going on to say, "there are zero Republican Senate candidates who support efforts to restrict access to fertility treatments."

Former President Donald Trump also called on Alabama lawmakers to reverse the decision and spoke out in support of IVF.

Contributing: Trevor Hughes, Rachel Looker, Riley Beggin, James Call

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Mississippi senator blocks bill to protect IVF after Alabama ruling