Bill to protect IVF access fails in Senate as Democrats, GOP spar over the 2024 issue

Competing measures were offered by both parties this week and were blocked.

June 13, 2024, 2:35 PM

Senate Democrats on Thursday continued a series of election-year votes on reproductive rights with a bill that would protect access to in vitro fertilization, or IVF.

The attempt to advance the legislation fell well short of the 60 votes needed, the final vote being 48-47. All but two Republicans, Sens. Lisa Murkowski and Susan Collins, opposed the measure.

The vote was largely symbolic as Democrats seek to draw a contrast with Republicans on reproductive health care issues ahead of November.

Last week, a similar Democrat-led effort to ensure nationwide access to contraception failed along party lines.

The IVF vote came on the heels of a major Supreme Court ruling preserving access to mifepristone, a widely-used abortion medication.

Majority Leader Chuck Schumer spoke on the floor moments after the unanimous decision came down, saying he was relieved but warned that "we're not yet out of the woods."

"This decision should have been an obvious one," he said. "And let us not forget. This decision was based not on the merits, but on a lack of standing."

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., speaks to reporters about a vote to protect rights for access to in vitro fertilization to achieve pregnancy, at the Capitol in Washington, June 12, 2024.
J. Scott Applewhite/AP

Schumer then quickly pivoted to IVF, saying the question before lawmakers is "very simple."

"Do we agree that Americans should be free to use IVF if they want to? Yes or no?" Schumer continued. "If yes, then the only right answer is to vote in favor of today's bill."

The legislation, authored by Democratic Sen. Tammy Duckworth, includes four bills that aim to preserve access to IVF by prohibiting states from imposing restrictions on the treatment and making it more affordable. It would also expand access through insurance as well as for military members and veterans.

Democrats argue it's necessary for Congress to protect access to the fertility treatment after the Supreme Court in 2022 allowed states to ban abortions and the Alabama Supreme Court in February ruled that frozen embryos can be considered children under state law.

Republicans, who maintain they are supportive of IVF, criticized Thursday's vote as a political stunt and oppose the legislation as being an overreach.

PHOTO: Sen. Katie Britt (R-AL) questions U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas during a Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Homeland Security hearing at the Capitol on April 10, 2024 in Washington, DC.
Ranking Member Sen. Katie Britt (R-AL) questions U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas during a Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Homeland Security hearing on "A Review of the President's FY2025 Budget Request for the Department of Homeland Security" at the Capitol on April 10, 2024 in Washington, DC.
Samuel Corum/Getty Images, FILE

On Wednesday, Republicans offered their own legislation that would ban states from getting access to Medicaid funding if they bar IVF services. The bill was co-sponsored by Sens. Katie Britt of Alabama and Ted Cruz of Texas.

Their attempt to pass the bill through unanimous request was blocked by Democrats who said it didn't go far enough to protect access.

Britt and Cruz, in a joint statement on behalf of all 49 Republican senators, said ahead of Thursday's vote that Democrats were trying to "mislead" the public on this issue.

"Senate Democrats have embraced a Summer of Scare Tactics -- a partisan campaign of false fearmongering intended to mislead and confuse the American people," the statement read. "In vitro fertilization is legal and available in every state across our nation. We strongly support continued nationwide access to IVF, which has allowed millions of aspiring parents to start and grow their families."

ABC News' Rachel Scott contributed to this report.

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