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Senate Democrats, led by Duckworth, to force vote on protecting IVF access nationwide

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(WASHINGTON) — Senate Democrats on Wednesday aim to force Republicans to take a public stand in the controversy over in vitro fertilization by requiring them to either support or oppose legislation led by Sen. Tammy Duckworth — a measure that would establish a statutory right to access assistive reproductive technologies, including IVF, in the wake of the Alabama Supreme Court ruling.

At a news conference Tuesday, Duckworth, who is sponsoring the legislation to create a federal law ensuring access, shared her personal experiences with IVF, which she said she used to conceive her two children.

“It’s a little personal to me when a majority male court suggests that people like me who are not able to have kids without the help of modern medicine should be in jail cells and not taking care of their babies in nurseries,” the Illinois Democrat said. “I know I’m not alone when I struggle to understand how politicians who support this kind of policy can possibly call themselves pro-life.”

Last week, the Alabama Supreme Court ruled that “unborn children are ‘children’ … without exception based on developmental stage, physical location, or any other ancillary characteristics.” The unprecedented decision from the court could impact the future of IVF treatments in the state — and several IVF providers have paused parts of their care to patients for fear of legal risks.

Duckworth’s plan would require unanimous consent in order for it to pass — even one objection from a Republican would tank it.

But Democrats were out in force Tuesday announcing that they’d push forward with trying to pass the legislation in hopes of putting Republicans on the record.

“I’m headed to the Senate floor to call on my colleagues to pass via unanimous consent my access to family building act, which would ensure that every American’s right to become a parent via treatments like IVF is fully protected regardless of what state they live in,” Duckworth said.

It’s not yet clear whether Republicans will try to block the bill from advancing. Several Republicans signaled an openness to Duckworth’s legislation, but some doubted the need for federal action.

“There’s no effort in Florida or any state in the country to ban fertility treatment,” Sen. Marco Rubio said.

But the Florida Republican indicated legislation could be a relief for medical practitioners exposed to liability.

“I think it’d be worthwhile for every state to provide clear, legal legislative guidance on how clinics can handle unused embryos, particularly when parents have not given clear direction,” Rubio said.

Sen. Roger Marshall, an OBGYN who practiced medicine for more than 25 years before he was elected to the Senate, called on colleagues to “have a lot of compassion and care. this is a very complicated topic, a very personal topic. I encourage people discuss the issue with their own pastor, their own priests, their own rabbi.”

“The Republican Party is the pro family party. So there’s nothing more pro family then then welcoming new babies into the into the world. I think the Dobbs decision clearly puts this issue back at the state level. And we’d encourage the state legislature of Alabama to right this wrong and look forward to more IVF babies,” the Kansas Republican said.

Sen. Lindsey Graham bluntly said an embryo doesn’t constitute life.

“I think one thing I’ve learned is that nobody’s ever been born in a freezer, that I know of. So you’re not going to be born in a freezer. A fertilized egg has to be planted into a biological woman — then you can have a baby,” Graham said.

The South Carolina Republican said IVF “actually [provides] people with children who have a hard time otherwise.”

“We’re talking about the law here. At the end of the day, a embryo in a freezer is not going to develop into a human being. So we need to have a balanced approach to make sure that the the treatments go forward,” Graham said.

Duckworth said that if Republicans who, in recent days have been out in force asserting their support of IVF, are being true to their word, they should support her effort Wednesday.

“I expect them to if they live up to the words that they are saying to not block it, but we’ll see tomorrow when rubber hits the road whether they actually show up and show support for IVF or whether they actively block American families’ ability to start families through IVF,” Duckworth said Tuesday.

Duckworth appeared on “This Week” Sunday where she told co-anchor Martha Raddatz that “it’s been crickets” from Republicans since the Alabama ruling threatened IVF access in the state.

“Not a single Republican has reached out to me on the bill. I’ve introduced a bill, multiple times, now multiple Congresses — but frankly, let’s see if they vote for it when we when we bring it to the floor,” Duckworth told Raddatz.

Duckworth’s bill also establishes the right to use or dispose of “reproductive genetic material” and allows the Justice Department to pursue civil action against states who block this right.

Duckworth has been trying to advance a similar version of this bill for years, but it has previously faced challenges from Republicans.

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