Senate Democrats tee up bill to protect IVF as Southern Baptists back ban

Senate Democrats are poised to push a vote to protect in-vitro fertilization Thursday as part of their broad effort to defend reproductive rights even as the influential Southern Baptist Convention voted Wednesday to oppose the practice.

Majority Leader Chuck Schumer says Democrats will introduce a measure that would explicitly legalize IVF nationwide.

The bill faces Republican opposition and will likely fail to garner the needed 60 votes even though large majorities in both parties support access to the practice, which involves destroying unneeded frozen embryos.

“We’re going to see where (Republicans) stand,” said Sen. Patti Murray, D-Washington. “The threat to IVF is very real.”

The bill likely faces the same fate as a similar bill protecting the right to contraception. That measure failed last week as only a couple of moderate Republicans broke ranks.

Democrats want to keep voters focused on reproductive rights, which has become a hugely effective wedge issue for them since the Supreme Court rolled back the landmark Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortion nationwide.

GOP lawmakers say Democrats are playing political games and that neither contraception nor IVF faces any serious threat.

Families in Alabama may disagree. The future of IVF was recently thrown into doubt by an Alabama Supreme Court ruling that frozen embryos are people and covered by the state’s anti-abortion constitutional amendment declaring that life begins at conception.

The Republican-controlled state government scrambled to pass a law explicitly permitting IVF, but it’s unclear if the law will pass muster under planned challenge by evangelical Christians.

Many Republican members of Congress have signed on to a proposed similar federal law declaring that life starts at conception.

The law aims to outlaw abortion as murder. But it could also have the side effect of endangering IVF because of the way the practice works.

On its face, IVF, like contraception, enjoys broad support among Americans of all walks of life. Recent polls show 86% support keeping IVF legal and even 83% of evangelical Christians support the practice.

But fears over IVF grew dramatically Wednesday as the Southern Baptist Convention, the nation’s largest Protestant denomination, voted to oppose the practice.

IVF “most often participates in the destruction of embryonic human life,” reads the resolution passed by 11,000 delegates to the Baptist gathering.

The group represents 13 million parishioners in 45,000 churches. The move isn’t binding but church leaders made no secret that they hope to open a new front in the conservative culture wars after abortion opponents eventually won their long battle to end legal abortion.

“It took us 50 years to take down (Roe v. Wade),” Brent Leatherwood, a policy official with the Southern Baptist Convention, told Politico. “We have to be patient.”