Republican senator blocks bill to protect IVF access after Alabama ruling

A Republican senator has blocked legislation that would have federally protected access to in vitro fertilization (IVF) at the national level.

The bill, proposed by Democratic Senator Tammy Duckworth, came after the Alabama Supreme Court ruled that frozen embryos can be considered children under state law, prompting several clinics in the state to halt IVF treatments, which can involve discarding nonviable or excess embryos as part of standard practice.

Ms Duckworth’s bill would have protected access to IVF on a federal level, but Republican Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith objected to the legislation, branding it an overreach full of “poison pills” that would go far beyond ensuring access to IVF.

“It would legalize human cloning. It would legalize commercial surrogacy, including for young girls without parental involvement. It would legalize gene edited designer babies and lift the federal ban on the creation of three parent embryos,” Ms Hyde-Smith said.

Ms Duckworth said Ms Hyde-Smith was misinterpreting the bill.

“It does not force anyone to see reproductive technology. It does not force anyone to offer it. It does not force anyone to cover it. It simply says you have a statutory right should you choose to pursue assisted reproductive technology,” said Ms Duckworth, who used IVF treatments to have her two children after struggling with years of infertility.

Sen. Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill., center, speaks about a bill to establish federal protections for IVF (AP)
Sen. Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill., center, speaks about a bill to establish federal protections for IVF (AP)

Ms Duckworth sought to pass the bill by unanimous consent, which meant that just one senator could object and scuttle the entire effort.

However, the Democratic senator said on Wednesday she would ask Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer for a roll call vote on the bill in order to put Republicans on record.

This week, Republicans, including Donald Trump, have sought to declare their support for access to IVF following the Alabama ruling – but have reiterated that the federal government should not interfere with state-level decisions on reproductive care.

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

Democrats have questioned Republicans’ claims of support for access to IVF.

“In this nightmarish moment, it’s nowhere near enough to send out a vaguely worded tweet claiming you care about women’s rights, despite your voting record to the contrary,” Ms Duckworth said on the Senate floor.

She said that, by bringing the bill up again, Democrats are challenging Republican senators to stay true to their word – and display real support for IVF access.

“Mark my words, if we don’t act now, it will only get worse,” Ms Duckworth said, echoing fears over threats to reproductive rights after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v Wade in 2022.

Meanwhile, Mr Schumer said on Tuesday that Republicans who have denounced the Alabama ruling “are like the arsonist who set a house on fire and say, why is it burning?”