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Senate to vote on IVF package amid reproductive rights push

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Senate to hold vote on nationwide IVF right

Senate to hold vote on nationwide right to IVF 03:40

Washington — The Senate is set to vote Thursday afternoon on a legislative package to protect access to IVF, as Democrats make a push around reproductive rights this month — two years after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade — despite near-certain opposition from Republicans.

The issue came to the national attention after the Alabama Supreme Court earlier this year ruled that embryos are considered children under state law, prompting providers to halt fertility treatments. (The Legislature later approved legislation to protect IVF in the state.)

Across the nation, Democrats put the blame on Republicans as the development raised concern about similar moves elsewhere, warning of a new front in the fight over reproductive rights.

"In the aftermath of Roe and after frightening decisions like the one from Alabama, many families fear that this basic service cannot be taken for granted," Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said on Tuesday. "The Senate can ease people's worries and protect their freedoms through legislation."

On Thursday afternoon, the upper chamber is scheduled to take a procedural vote on the package, called the Right to IVF Act, made up of four bills, some of which have previously been blocked by Senate Republicans. The package, which has almost no chance of being approved, is sponsored by Sens. Tammy Duckworth of Illinois, Patty Murray of Washington and Cory Booker of New Jersey, and centers on a right to receive and provide IVF services, while working to make the treatments more affordable. 

Sen. Tammy Duckworth speaks alongside Sen. Cory Booker during a news conference on access to in vitro fertilization (IVF) treatments outside of the U.S. Capitol Building on June 12, 2024 in Washington, DC. Sen. Tammy Duckworth speaks alongside Sen. Cory Booker during a news conference on access to in vitro fertilization (IVF) treatments outside of the U.S. Capitol Building on June 12, 2024 in Washington, DC.  Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

One measure would create a statutory right for access to assisted reproductive services like IVF. Duckworth tried to secure passage of the bill in February under unanimous consent, but one Republican senator objected, claiming that it would go too far. The package also includes a measure geared toward expanding access to the fertility treatments for veterans, which was likewise blocked by a Republican senator earlier this year. Other provisions are aimed at lowering costs for Americans by requiring insurance plans to cover IVF. 

Another push related to reproductive rights fell short in the Senate last week, when Democrats tried to advance legislation protecting access to contraception ,with most Republicans opposing the measure. The two votes come as part of an effort by Democrats to highlight reproductive rights this month, with an eye toward the November elections, which Republicans have criticized. But Schumer argues that the votes aren't mere messaging votes. 

"Protecting IVF, like protecting contraception, is not a show vote," Schumer said at a news conference on Wednesday. "It's a show-us-who-you-are vote."

However, Senate Democrats want to put Republicans on the record over the issues related to reproductive rights issues, which has been a driving force at the polls. 

"Every single Republican needs to answer clearly for the record: do you want our laws to protect IVF or do you want laws that say frozen embryos have the same rights as living, breathing human beings?" Murray said at a news conference on Wednesday. "You cannot have both." 

And when it comes to IVF, although Senate Republicans have largely expressed support for the fertility treatments in the wake of the Alabama ruling, lawmakers appear to be at odds over a path forward that would satisfy both parties. 

Last month, two Senate Republicans, Sens. Ted Cruz of Texas and Katie Britt of Alabama, introduced legislation to protect access to IVF, urging bipartisan support. But Democrats quickly pushed back on the legislation, questioning its scope and mechanism.

The GOP bill, called the IVF Protection Act, the would require that states "do not prohibit in vitro fertilization" as a condition for the states to receive federal funding for Medicaid, which provides health insurance for low-income Americans. The bill doesn't compel an organization or individual to provide IVF services, and it doesn't preclude states from otherwise regulating IVF — which Democrats generally oppose. 

On Wednesday, Cruz and Britt attempted to approve the legislation under unanimous consent, in order to preempt the Democrat-led vote on Thursday. But Murray blocked the move, calling it a "PR tool" and argued that it's "ridiculous to claim that this bill protects IVF when it does nothing of the sort."

Though the Democrats' IVF package isn't likely to advance, at least one Republican, Sen. Susan Collins of Maine, said she intends to vote to advance the IVF package. She told reporters she doesn't want "the message to be that Republicans are against IVF," but she also noted that the move is "clearly not a serious attempt at legislating." 

And Sen. Lisa Murkowski, an Alaska Republican, said she's still looking at the components of the package. The two Republicans were the only members of their party to vote in favor of advancing the contraception legislation last week. 

Alan He contributed reporting.

Kaia Hubbard

Kaia Hubbard is a politics reporter for CBS News Digital, based in Washington, D.C.

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