Senate Dems, Republicans clash over federal IVF protections: ‘They’re covering their a—s’

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Senate Republicans pointed to Alabama’s recent law to protect in vitro fertilization (IVF) providers from civil and criminal liability as proof of states’ capacity to self-correct and the reason Democrat-led federal legislation to protect the fertility procedure isn’t necessary.

“Basically every state I know of supports IVF,” said Sen. Bill Cassidy, R-La., a doctor.

Other Republican senators who spoke to Fox News Digital agreed.

Following a controversial decision by Alabama’s Supreme Court ruling frozen embryos were legally children, the state’s legislature quickly sprung into action to protect IVF. Several clinics conducting IVF shut down their procedures after the court’s decision, but once the state passed a law releasing them from liability, some of the centers began to reopen. 

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U.S. Sen. Bill Cassidy, R-La., joined by Sen. Tommy Tuberville, R-Ala., and Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, speaks at a press conference on student loans at the U.S. Capitol June 14, 2023. (Getty Images)

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Cassidy cited Alabama’s fast legislative work in his explanation against federal legislation on IVF. 

“Once you get the federal government involved, it’s going to open the door to some mischief that goes far beyond what you originally wanted to,” he said. 

“The issue that brought this debate was happening in Alabama, and they’ve dealt with it in legislation,” added Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla. 

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Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., in the Dirksen Senate Office Building March 22, 2023. (Bill Clark/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images)

According to Rubio, a larger conversation is necessary “about what’s right and appropriate and legal and protected when it comes to discarding the extra human embryos that are not going to be used.”

“It’s legal in all 50 states,” said Sen. Rick Scott, R-Fla., who introduced a resolution this week affirming support for IVF. 

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Scott’s resolution expresses support for IVF and families looking to expand but doesn’t carry the weight of a bill or make changes to the law. 

Republican Florida Sen. Rick Scott

Sen. Rick Scott, R-Fla., walks to a luncheon with Senate Republicans at the U.S. Capitol Building June 1, 2023, in Washington, D.C. (Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images)

Sen. Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill., who spearheaded a bill to enshrine protections for IVF into law, slammed the resolution.

“They’re covering their a—s,” Duckworth said of her Republican colleagues. “That’s what they’re trying to do. A resolution doesn’t do anything.” 

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Duckworth attempted to force a vote last week on her IVF bill, asking for unanimous consent to move it to the floor. However, Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith, R-Miss., objected to it. 

Duckworth said Republicans had not been approaching her to negotiate a potential bipartisan measure either. 

Sen. Tammy Duckworth

Sen. Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill., speaks about a bill to establish federal protections for IVF as Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., right, listens during a press event on Capitol Hill Feb. 27, 2024, in Washington. (Getty Images)

And its unclear whether Democrats would be willing to make concessions to work with their Republican colleagues on a bill. 

“The Duckworth bill is a perfect bill,” said Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va. “Her bill is just a person has a right to access IVF, and a provider has a right to provide IVF. It’s not a mandate. It just protects the patient, protects the provider.”

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Scott notably didn’t rule out legislation to protect the procedure in the future. 

“I think we’re gonna do everything we can to make sure it continues to be legal,” he said. 

Other Republicans similarly left the door open. 

Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va., listens during a Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee hearing on Capitol Hill on Jan. 11, 2022 in Washington, D.C.

Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va., listens during a Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee hearing on Capitol Hill Jan. 11, 2022, in Washington, D.C. (Greg Nash-Pool/Getty Images)

A federal bill to protect the fertility procedure is “certainly a discussion we can have, but at this point it’s protected in every state,” said Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas. 

“If it ever became an issue, I would consider it,” added Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah. “But there’s not a state in the country that does not protect IVF.”

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According to Romney, it doesn’t require “federal addressing at this stage.”

“If there was a point there needed to be federal action on it, I would definitely be supportive,” agreed Sen. Markwayne Mullin, R-Okla. 

Republican Utah Sen. Mitt Romney

Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, speaks to members of the press on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., June 1, 2023. (Ting Shen/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

“I believe that way Alabama handled it was good.”

A number of Democratic senators were critical of their GOP colleagues’ claims federal protections aren’t needed now. 

“I think that’s wrong,” claimed Sen. Tina Smith, D-Minn. “Absolutely, we need to protect people’s capacity to access” IVF. 

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Elizabeth Warren gives an interview from inside the Capitol building

Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., is renewing calls for a national COVID-19 memorial day.  (Al Drago/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., expressed skepticism over Alabama’s new law, telling Fox News Digital legal scholars believe “it raises as many questions as it answers.”

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“Without the protection of Roe v. Wade, the states can do what the Alabama court did and effectively end IVF in the state,” she warned. 

According to Warren, if congressional Republicans were “truly committed to protecting IVF,” they would be in favor of a bill to do so federally. “But, so far, they are not.” 

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