US Senate Democrats to try to pass bill protecting in vitro fertilization

By Thomson Reuters Feb 28, 2024 | 5:08 AM

By Richard Cowan

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Democrats on Wednesday will try rushing legislation through the U.S. Senate guaranteeing Americans’ access to in vitro fertilization and other assisted reproductive technologies, after an Alabama court designated frozen embryos as children.

The state Supreme Court ruling on Feb. 16 that frozen embryos should be considered children prompted at least three Alabama providers to halt the IVF procedure that involves combining eggs and sperm in a laboratory dish for couples having difficulty conceiving.

Alabama’s court ruling has raised concerns that those involved in IVF could face prosecution because embryos that are found to be nonviable are sometimes disposed of or used for research, along with encouraging other states to follow suit.

Democratic Senator Tammy Duckworth, an Iraq War veteran who suffered grave injuries in combat in 2004, on Tuesday said she would seek permission for an immediate vote on Wednesday on passage of her Access to Family Building Act legislation.

If any other senator objects to such a fast-track approach, it would derail Duckworth’s effort.

While many Republican officeholders have expressed discomfort with the Alabama court ruling, they are expected to object to Duckworth’s measure.

It was unclear who might lodge the objection. But Republican Senator Mike Rounds told reporters on Tuesday: “This could be addressed at the state levels where they have this issue coming.”

Rounds said Republican senators discussed the issue during a closed lunch meeting on Tuesday and added that states might have to address questions about possible wrongful deaths where IVF facilities “had an obligation to take care of the embryos.”

Duckworth told reporters on Tuesday that she struggled for a decade with infertility following her military service in Iraq, which prompted her and her husband to turn to IVF. They now have two children.

“I have five embryos that were created (using IVF); three that were deemed to be nonviable, would not survive,” Duckworth said.

She said that at the time, in 2013, her doctor told her that if “personhood laws” regarding embryos were to be enacted, “I could be convicted of manslaughter or murder for discarding these three eggs that were nonviable.”

Reproductive rights are expected to be a major issue in this year’s presidential and congressional campaigns, with Democrats lashing out at both the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2022 ruling overturning its landmark Roe v. Wade case establishing a national right to abortion, as well as subsequent state reproductive rights actions such as the one on IVF.

(Reporting by Richard Cowan; editing by Jonathan Oatis)