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House Republicans unveil bill shielding IVF from state bans

The legislation comes months after an Alabama court issued a controversial ruling holding that frozen embryos used for in vitro fertilization procedures could be legally defined as children.

WASHINGTON (CN) — A pair of Republican senators on Monday introduced new legislation they said would protect Americans’ access to in vitro fertilization, barring states from restricting the procedure.

The measure, sponsored by Texas Senator Ted Cruz and Alabama Senator Katie Britt, comes just two months after the state legislature in Britt’s home state walked back an Alabama Supreme Court ruling which defined frozen embryos used for IVF as “children” and made destroying those embryos a crime under state law.

The decision forced IVF clinics in the Yellowhammer State to pause treatments and reignited a national conversation about fetal personhood and contracting reproductive rights.

But the two Senate Republicans said Monday that their new bill would remove IVF procedures from that dialogue.

“I’m proud to strongly support continued nationwide access to this pathway to parenthood for the millions of American couples facing infertility,” Britt said in a statement. “This commonsense piece of legislation affirms both life and liberty — family and freedom.”

If made law, the proposed legislation would amend the Social Security Act to make IVF protections a required precondition for states receiving federal money through Medicaid. A state would be made ineligible for such funding if it were to ban the procedure.

However, the bill also does not explicitly compel organizations to provide IVF treatments.

Speaking on Fox News Monday morning, Britt said that the measure was a response to “fearmongering” from Democrats about the GOP’s position on IVF — arguing that some lawmakers have suggested Republicans want to see the practice eliminated.

“It’s pro-life, it’s pro-family and it’s pro-woman,” Britt said of IVF, “and I believe that we are the party of families.”

Cruz added that the proposed legislation was straightforward and that it should receive the unanimous support of the Senate.

“This is an issue that has overwhelming agreement,” said the Texas Republican. “Every senator says they support IVF. This should be an example where … we should be able to come together, 100 to nothing, and say ‘we stand with the ability of parents who want to love their kids to bring those children into the world.’”

Since the Alabama Supreme Court issued its IVF ruling in February, congressional Republicans have largely been critical of any effort to clamp down on the procedure, framing it as an issue separate from the broader question of fetal personhood and abortion rights. GOP lawmakers, including Britt and Cruz, have positioned IVF as “pro-family,” posing it as an important method by which Americans can choose to have children.

“There are issues on abortion that we can disagree on,” Cruz said Monday, “but that it a very different issue from the issue about whether parents should be able to affirmatively choose [they] want to have a child and take advantage of medical technology to do that.”

The Alabama Supreme Court’s February ruling was the result of a lawsuit filed by three couples whose frozen embryos were accidentally destroyed at a fertility clinic. The state justices concluded that such an action could be considered a criminal offense under Alabama’s Wrongful Death of a Minor Act, arguing that the law applies to all unborn children.

The court refused to rehear the case earlier this month.

Following the controversial ruling, the Republican-led Alabama Legislature in March passed a bill aimed at restarting IVF treatments after a two-week pause spurred by the ruling. The measure granted fertility clinics and workers civil and criminal immunity from the state law protecting minors.

However, the bill — signed into law March 6 by Alabama Governor Kay Ivey — did not address the court’s findings about fetal personhood and the contention that frozen embryos are legally defined as children.

Meanwhile, back on Capitol Hill, the proposed Republican IVF legislation had yet to be scheduled for debate as of Monday afternoon.

Follow @BenjaminSWeiss
Categories / Government, National, Politics

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