Democrats to force vote for protections for IVF as election-year messaging heats up

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WASHINGTON — After a failed vote last week that would have ensured nationwide access to contraception, Democrats on Thursday are expected to force a vote to enshrine protections for in vitro fertilization — a fertility procedure that has helped millions of families have children — and expand access to the treatment for service members and veterans.

The Right to IVF Act is a “comprehensive” package aimed at protecting IVF, according to the Democratic trio behind the bill: Sens. Cory Booker, D-N.J.; Patty Murray, D-Wash.; and Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill. It includes four bills that aim to preserve access to IVF by prohibiting states from imposing restrictions on the treatment and making it more affordable.

But a majority of Republicans are expected to block the legislation on a procedural vote, deeming the bill unnecessary and politically motivated, despite saying they back access to IVF. Instead, Sens. Katie Britt, R-Ala., and Ted Cruz, R-Texas, attempted to pass their own, much narrower IVF bill Wednesday evening but Murray objected, blocking a vote after Democrats called the legislation “dangerous” and “a step backwards.”

The GOP bill, the IVF Protection Act, would withhold key Medicaid funding to any states that ban access to IVF, but it does not address the potential legal consequences of discarding nonviable embryos. That’s the key issue, Democrats argue, and a major question for providers and doctors, particularly after an Alabama Supreme Court ruling earlier this year called into question whether frozen embryos created during fertility treatments should be considered children.