Republicans Care So Much About Protecting IVF That They’re About to Block a Bill That Would Do Just That

They want to protect access to IVF about as much as they do abortion.
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Close-up of embryos being selected under microscope in laboratory before implantation, Before implantation into a female patients viable embryos are selected in the laboratory and then passed through to the theatre where they are implanted. (Photo by Universal Images Group via Getty Images)UniversalImagesGroup/Getty Images

How much do Republicans care about protecting access to IVF, the fertility treatment that has allowed millions of people to become parents and which is currently at risk in the US, thanks to an Alabama Supreme Court ruling that has already led to some clinics halting the procedure? So much that they’re poised to block a Democratic bill that would enshrine the right to IVF in federal law.

On Wednesday, Senate Republicans are expected to object to Tammy Duckworth’s Right to Build Families Act, because, surprise: They don’t actually care about families and aren’t “pro-life.”

“It’s idiotic for us to take the bait,” Senator J.D. Vance told Politico, as though the measure were some kind of political trap. (He also noted that he had not actually read the bill yet.) Senator Roger Marshall told the outlet that while he thinks states should totally “protect in-vitro fertilization,” he doesn’t “see any need to regulate it at the federal level.” (If that argument sounds familiar, it’s because it’s basically the same one that came from conservative lawmakers who told everyone to calm down when Roe v. Wade was overturned because “abortion isn’t being restricted; it’s just being sent back to the states.”)

“If you truly care about the sanctity of families, and you’re genuinely, actually, honestly interested in protecting IVF, then you need to show it by not blocking this bill on the floor,” Duckworth said at a press conference Tuesday. This is not the first time the senator from Illinois has tried to get her bill passed; she attempted to do so via unanimous consent in 2022, but Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith objected to it on the Senate floor. (Hyde-Smith, like many of her colleagues, is not a fan of reproductive freedom; she is virulently antiabortion and has called Planned Parenthood, which she wanted to defund, “one of the worst things that has ever happened to us.”)

Within days of the Alabama Supreme Court ruling that frozen embryos have the same rights as living children—and that people can be criminally charged for disposing of them—the University of Alabama at Birmingham paused IVF treatments. “We are saddened that this will impact our patients’ attempt to have a baby through IVF,” it stated, “but we must evaluate the potential that our patients and our physicians could be prosecuted criminally or face punitive damages for following the standard of care for IVF treatments.” A major embryo shipping company has likewise halted doing business in the state. The ruling has left countless patients in limbo. “I’m basically at a standstill,” Elizabeth Goldman, who hoped to add to her family through IVF before needing her uterus removed, told ABC News. “My whole entire journey revolved around IVF and being able to do another embryo transfer.”