Sen. Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill., center, speaks about a bill to establish federal protections for IVF.
Sen. Tammy Duckworth is pushing for a bill to establish federal protections for IVF. Mark Schiefelbein/AP

Republicans Say They Support IVF — Just Maybe Not an Actual Bill to Protect It

“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,” Sen. Tammy Duckworth said.

Democrats are daring Republicans to put their money where their mouth is by actually backing legislation to protect in vitro fertilization after an Alabama Supreme Court ruling restricted access to the procedure in the state.

Sen. Tammy Duckworth announced that on Wednesday she will attempt to pass her bill to protect IVF and other fertility treatments via unanimous consent. “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,” she said of Republicans at a press conference Tuesday.

Donald Trump and other Republicans last week scrambled to issue public statements expressing their support for IVF after the Alabama Supreme Court ruling, which stated that frozen embryos “are children.” But few have actually backed efforts to protect access to IVF, which Democrats warned could be limited after Roe v. Wade was overturned. Republicans blocked Duckworth’s effort in 2022 to create federal protections for IVF amid concerns that they’d be affected in the post-Roe era.

“In this nightmarish moment, it’s nowhere near enough to send out a vaguely worded tweet suggesting that you care about women’s rights despite a voting record to the absolute contrary,” Duckworth said Tuesday.

Democrats blamed Republicans for the Alabama decision, calling it a direct result of the overturning of Roe v. Wade. The ruling cited the Dobbs opinion multiple times to ultimately make the point that frozen embryos “are children.”

Republicans aren’t lining up behind the Duckworth bill just yet. While many have said they support IVF and are concerned about the Alabama ruling, some said Duckworth’s bill could be going too far.

“If this is just about IVF, I’m open to it,” Missouri Sen. Josh Hawley, who said he had yet to read the bill, told NOTUS. “If this is about IVF plus other stuff, abortion, well then, no. I mean, I’m 100% pro-life and 100% pro-IVF, so I don’t want to see abortion and IVF get linked up in any way.”

Other GOP senators echoed that same feeling. “Is that all it says, or does it say something different?” Sen. Bill Cassidy told reporters. “I support IVF, though, I’d actually want to read [the bill] first.”

Some Republicans rejected the idea that IVF is at risk entirely.

“There’s no threat to IVF,” said Florida Sen. Marco Rubio. “The issue that’s at play here is what practitioners and fertility clinics will tell you, and that is that there are some real ethical concerns and literally no laws or guidelines in most places about what do you do with the human embryos that aren’t used.”

Duckworth’s Access to Family Building Act does not mention abortion. It would create a right to access IVF and other fertility treatments “without prohibition,” and it would guarantee that patients have the final say on what happens with their embryos. That topic has become a point of contention among anti-abortion advocates, some of whom argue that IVF can be unethical because it “leads to disposable human beings,” as Students for Life of America President Kristan Hawkins put it on X.

Some anti-abortion groups, like Texas Right to Life, say that they would not be concerned about IVF if all embryos created were transferred to a person’s womb. Doing so, however, could lead to a person having multiple miscarriages, and fertility experts have said that IVF would not be as effective if there were laws telling doctors what they’re supposed to do with their patients’ embryos.

Democrats rejected the idea of placing limits or restrictions on what happens to the embryos.

“There’s no way to say that there’s limits on embryos,” Duckworth said. “I reject those attempts because … it’s a bait and switch, and it’s not viable, you can’t get there.”

Some Republicans are hoping to hand the responsibility elsewhere, suggesting that IVF should be a state issue. Alabama Sen. Katie Britt said she was looking forward to her state’s legislature approving protections for IVF. Similarly, Sen. Lisa Murkowski, a moderate Republican, said it was “appropriate” that the state legislature address the issue.

Sens. Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia and Cynthia Lummis of Wyoming told NOTUS separately that IVF should be protected. But when asked if it was Congress’ responsibility to set those protections, Capito said, “Maybe, we’ll just have to see,” while Lummis said that she had a “wait and see attitude” while she evaluated how Alabama state lawmakers responded.

If the unanimous consent request fails, Duckworth said she would “love” to have a roll call vote on her bill. “Let’s get [Republicans] on the record,” she told reporters.

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Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer’s office did not respond to NOTUS’ request for comment on whether he would bring the bill to the floor.

“These Republicans are like the arsonist who set a house on fire and then said, ‘Why is it burning?’” said Schumer. “But let us be very clear: Republicans who have spent decades packing our courts with hard-right judges and who have called for national abortion bans deserve zero benefit of the doubt now that the consequences of their agenda are sinking in and even spreading.”

Over on the House side though, some Republicans seem to be more open to the idea of federally protecting IVF. South Carolina Rep. Nancy Mace is planning to introduce a resolution this week expressing “support for continued access to IVF,” her office told NOTUS.

Mace’s team said that she “supports legislation to protect access to IVF,” but when asked whether the congresswoman is planning to back Duckworth’s legislation, which does just that, her communications director said that Mace still needed to read the bill.

Oriana González is a reporter at NOTUS.