Push to protect IVF fails in the Senate after Republicans reject Democratic plan

WASHINGTON – The Senate on Thursday rejected a push to protect access to in vitro fertilization, a vote that was expected to fail in the face of nearly unanimous opposition from the chamber’s Republicans.

Democrats, including Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., have promised to bring up a series of votes protecting reproductive health this summer in an effort to squeeze Republicans with uncomfortable decisions in the lead-up to the November election.

Senators on Thursday considered The Right to IVF Act, a bill from Sen. Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill., who used the treatment to have two children; Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash.; and Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J. It would have barred states from adding restrictions to IVF and required insurance plans to cover the fertility treatment, but senators failed to reach the 60-vote threshold needed to move forward with the legislation.

Sens. Susan Collins, R-Maine, and Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, were the only Republicans to support the measure. Schumer switched his vote to oppose the push so that Democrats could return to the legislation later.

“Just a few years ago, it would have been unthinkable, unimaginable even, that access to a safe and widely used reproductive service like IVF would be put at risk,” Schumer said on the Senate floor Wednesday. “But sadly, after frightening decisions like the one from Alabama, not even IVF is safe in the aftermath of Roe.”

The Alabama Supreme Court ruled earlier this year that embryos used in IVF are children, a decision that came after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in 2022. While the Alabama Legislature quickly carved out new rules aimed at protecting IVF providers, the back and forth has created new questions on reproductive health services outside of abortion, including access to IVF, birth control and more.

The Senate vote came the same day that the Supreme Court threw out a case challenging the legality of mifepristone, known as the abortion pill, and the day after the Southern Baptist Convention voted to oppose in vitro fertilization – illustrating the rapidly shifting landscape of an issue that animates voters across the country.

Most Senate Republicans voted against the bill, which they argue tramples on religious freedoms and would extend beyond IVF. All 49 Senate Republicans signed a statement released Thursday ahead of the vote saying that “Senate Democrats have embraced a Summer of Scare Tactics.”

It’s “a partisan campaign of false fearmongering intended to mislead and confuse the American people. In vitro fertilization is legal and available in every state across our nation,” they wrote. “We strongly support continued nationwide access to IVF, which has allowed millions of aspiring parents to start and grow their families.”

Republicans have been pushing an alternative bill that seeks to protect IVF sponsored by Sens. Katie Britt, R-Ala., and Ted Cruz, R-Texas. They sought unanimous consent to pass that bill on Wednesday, but it was struck down by an objection from Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., who called it “a PR tool, plain and simple.”

Britt and Cruz’s bill would withhold Medicaid funding for states that enact an outright ban on IVF. It comes as Republicans have said they want to protect IVF but have hesitated to tell states how to regulate the procedure.

Democrats oppose the Republican bill because they argue states could still pass laws that give embryos the same rights as a child.

“It absolutely is a real solution. It’s the only one that can get 60 votes in that chamber,” Britt said of her bill. “I think it’s critically important that we stop trying to scare women who are looking to experience God’s greatest gift, that is being a mother.”

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: A push to protect IVF failed in the Senate. Here's why.