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Both Texas Senators Fail To Protect IVF

Two bills came before the U.S. Senate this week that were supposed to protect in-vitro fertilization, one of them written by Texas’s own Sen. Ted Cruz. Both failed to pass, leaving the fate of IVF very much in doubt.

IVF is a process where eggs are extracted from a person, fertilized in laboratory conditions, and then re-inserted. Millions of people in the United States use it to conceive. As more and more states passed laws, proclaiming life begins at conception, it put the entire practice in jeopardy. This year, the Alabama Supreme Court ruled IVF was illegal because frozen embryos counted as children. The Texas Supreme Court could soon do the same.

This has left Republicans with a problem. The movement against IVF is intrinsically connected to the party’s assault on reproductive freedom and choice. However, a large percentage of IVF patients are Republicans trying to conceive. Faced with the reality of their reproductive views clashing with the needs of their base, some like Cruz have scrambled to at least appear like they are trying to protect IVF without giving up the language they use to power anti-abortion culture wars.

Cruz filed S. 4368, which was voted blocked in the Senate on Wednesday. The bill would have denied Medicare funding to states that prohibited IVF. While this would have undoubtably have made some states wary of outlawing IVF in the legislature, it was barely protection otherwise. It had no mechanism for protecting IVF if another court struck it down, nor did it assert any sort of right for people to use medical conception services.

Meanwhile, Senate Democrats pushed their own bill (S. 4445) written by Sen. Tammy Duckworth of Illinois, who herself has two children from the process. Her bill would federally protect access to IVF treatment in a way that supersedes state law and placed choice about how to use those services strictly between patients and their medical team. Insurance plans offering OB/GYN coverage would also be forced to cover IVF.

Both Cruz and Sen. John Cornyn voted against the bill in the Senate this week.

The reason is obvious. Duckworth’s bill actually uses language that gets at the heart of the matter. Personhood-at-conception as a legal argument makes many fertility treatments outright impossible. The reality of reproductive medicine simply does not adhere to a conservative idea of personhood from the moment the egg touches sperm. Duckworth’s bill is simply too close to the truth to survive Republican scrutiny.

Meanwhile. Cruz attempted a grandstanding, half-hearted bill that would “protect” IVF with vague threats instead of concrete definitions and a look at medical practice. It was a move to show that Republicans cared about IVF without actually doing anything, and even that was lambasted from the right as being too close to reproductive choice.

Neither of Texas’s senators did anything of substance to protect IVF, and they voted against the only bill that actually would. It is a harbinger of things to come as the right continues to assault reproductive choice. 

Jef Rouner
Jef Rouner
Jef Rouner is an award-winning freelance journalist, the author of The Rook Circle, and a member of The Black Math Experiment. He lives in Houston where he spends most of his time investigating corruption and strange happenings. Jef has written for Houston Press, Free Press Houston, and Houston Chronicle.


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