Democratic lawmakers are trying to ensure access to fertility treatments as new abortion laws in wake of the Supreme Court overturning Roe v. Wade raise questions about the fate of in vitro fertilization.
Sens. Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) and Patty Murray (D-WA), along with Rep. Susan Wild (D-PA), are introducing legislation that would define a federal right to fertility treatments and bar states from restricting access to assisted reproductive technology, which includes medical procedures used to address infertility such as IVF.
“ASRM has been hearing from our members about the very real anxiety that patients have reported since the Supreme Court’s Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health decision,” said the American Society for Reproductive Medicine, which supports the bill. “The decision to start a family is not a political matter. In order for Americans to exercise their fundamental right to build their own families, they must have access to assisted reproductive technologies. Regardless of partisan politics at the state level, the right to become a parent must be protected.”
IVF is a common method that people use to get pregnant, and roughly 2.9% of all infants born in the United States in 2019 were conceived using assisted reproductive technology, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The Right to Build Families Act of 2022 aims to safeguard access to the treatments and would allow the Department of Justice to pursue civil action against states that violate the bill.
The legislation comes as some abortion rights proponents and health experts express concerns that abortion laws could place more regulations on fertility treatments or leave access to the treatments in legal uncertainty.
Despite worries, Republican lawmakers have largely insisted that abortion laws would not place fertility treatments in jeopardy.
Tennessee Attorney General Jonathan Skrmetti (R) said last month that the state’s abortion law does not apply to embryos created outside of the womb after legislative leaders were contacted by residents undergoing IVF treatment. Former Vice President Mike Pence also said last month that fertility treatments “deserve the protection of the law,” in a CBS interview.
“Not a single state legislature or Congress is debating making fertility treatments illegal. We are focused on stopping the intentional killing of unborn human life,” nonprofit organization Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America told Axios.
Democratic lawmakers have proposed scores of bills focused on protecting reproductive health services, including contraception, abortion, and abortion-related services since the June ruling.
“There is this outright push to basically get rid of IVF, just as there is a push to get rid of contraception,” Duckworth, who has conceived two children through IVF, told USA Today. “People thought that the Dobbs decision was about abortion. It’s about your privacy rights to bodily autonomy.”
The federal proposals come as lawmakers in Republican-led states, including Florida and Nebraska, eye abortion restrictions for the next legislative session.