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Illinois Democrat-backed IVF legislation fails to pass U.S. Senate

Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., left, and Sen. Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill., speak to reporters about a vote to protect rights for access to in vitro fertilization to achieve pregnancy, at the Capitol in Washington, Wednesday, June 12, 2024. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
J. Scott Applewhite/AP
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AP
Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., left, and Sen. Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill., speak to reporters about a vote to protect rights for access to in vitro fertilization to achieve pregnancy, at the Capitol in Washington, Wednesday, June 12, 2024. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

A package of bills aimed at protecting access to in vitro fertilization treatment with the backing of a prominent Illinois Democrat failed to pass the U.S. Senate this week.

Illinois Senator Tammy Duckworth’s “Right to IVF” act included measures to create a statutory right to fertilization treatments and requirements for insurance plans to include those treatments in their coverage, lowering their cost.

Duckworth originally introduced portions of the act in February, following an Alabama Supreme Court decision that designated frozen embryos as children and halted fertility treatments in the state.

Those earlier legislative attempts failed individually.

“For so many women, that lifelong hope of having children is now stuck in a hellish limbo as they remain uncertain whether more states will follow Alabama's lead,” said Duckworth, addressing the Senate Thursday ahead of the vote.

The legislation reflects a growing concern that if other states follow suit, the common disposal of embryos as part of fertility treatments could be criminally prosecuted as murder or manslaughter.

Duckworth shared her own experience with IVF and how she relied upon treatments to have her two children.

“It is only thanks to IVF that I get to be embarrassingly proud when I hang my six year old's drawings on my Senate office walls, or that I get to be tackled in bed every mother's day by my nine year old who runs into my room bearing the biggest of hugs and the sweetest of cards,” she said.

Illinois Senator Dick Durbin also spoke in support, calling the measures “common sense.”

“If you're pro choice, protect the choice to use IVF to expand your family,” he said. “If you're pro life, protect the life that comes out of that process that becomes such a critical part of your own life.”

Senate Republicans did not concur. The act failed, 48-47. It would have needed 60 votes to pass. Only two Republicans broke with their party to vote in favor of the act, Maine Senator Susan Collins and Alaskan Senator Lisa Murkowski.

After the vote, Duckworth put out a statement lambasting Republicans, accusing them of hypocrisy and not caring about women’s reproductive rights.

“When the rubber meets the road, and we ask not just for empty words on Twitter but for their vote to protect IVF, they just don’t have it in them to even pretend to care about the women in this country,” she said.

Senate Republicans had previously presented a bill with a far more limited scope, threatening to end Medicaid funding for states that elected to ban IVF. That vote also failed. One of the bill’s sponsors, Alabama Republican Britt Cruz, accused Democrats of ignoring a potential solution in favor of grandstanding on reproductive rights as a key wedge issue ahead of the November presidential election.

Collin Schopp is a reporter at WCBU. He joined the station in 2022.