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Senate Republicans Say They Have an Alternative to Protecting IVF

Anti-abortion groups consider this medical technology a “moral” and “ethical” alternative to IVF.

Cindy Hyde-Smith
Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith is introducing a new IVF-related bill with Sen. James Lankford. Rogelio V. Solis/AP

As Senate Democrats prepare a largely symbolic vote on a bill that would create federal protections for in vitro fertilization and other fertility treatments, Republicans are introducing a bill to promote a new medical technology that anti-abortion groups say is a “moral” and “ethical” alternative to IVF, NOTUS has learned.

“IVF has always had its own issues, there are people that just have a concern and it’s typically the way that it’s done,” Sen. James Lankford, who introduced the bill along with Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith, told NOTUS. “There are so many embryos created and frozen that are then abandoned, that becomes an issue for someone — just a moral, ethical issue.”

Lankford said that “no one’s opposed to IVF.” But he added that he and Hyde-Smith decided to introduce the legislation the same day as the IVF vote because “we want the people to also think about the bigger issue of infertility while we’re talking about IVF.”

While Republicans say they do not oppose IVF, they are expected to vote against protections for the procedure for a second time later Thursday. Some state measures to curb abortion could complicate and limit IVF access. And many religious and anti-abortion groups oppose the procedure because it can lead to unused embryos that are later disposed of; just Wednesday, the Southern Baptist Convention voted to disapprove of IVF.

The Reproductive Empowerment and Support through Optimal Restoration Act, or RESTORE Act, from Lankford and Hyde-Smith states in the text that IVF and other assisted reproductive technologies “are not under threat at the federal level or in any state or territory of the United States.”

But the bill’s framing suggests that IVF is used too often. It aims to promote “restorative reproductive medicine,” a type of natural family planning that seeks to have women conceive naturally instead of through artificial insemination like IVF.

Lankford said he hopes people with infertility issues would see restorative reproductive medicine as something they can pursue before deciding to undergo IVF and other artificial insemination methods.

“IVF is a really expensive last resort and there’s so much before that,” he said. “I’m not opposed to IVF.”

He added there are other infertility-related issues to address, too: “What [Hyde-Smith] and I are working on is how do we improve the issue of infertility in America. So that’s an issue we’re trying to resolve without opposing the IVF portion of it.”

The bill was based on model legislation by the conservative groups Heritage Foundation and the Ethics & Public Policy Center. The anti-abortion law firm Americans United for Life has also been involved in the measure by educating offices on the Hill on the topic.

While officials in those groups say that the bill is necessary to understand the underlying causes of infertility, Democrats in Congress suggest that the legislation is just another political stunt from Republicans.

Rep. Susan Wild, who introduced the House version of Democrats’ IVF bill, said she’s “skeptical” of the bill brought by Senate Republicans. She added that the bills the GOP has offered on IVF in response to her own legislation are not actually supportive of reproductive health care.

“But those are messaging bills, and they don’t have any teeth,” Wild said at a press conference.

Oriana González is a reporter at NOTUS.