Lawmakers seek bipartisan breakthrough for legislation to provide federal protections for IVF

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Democratic Rep. Susan Wild of Pennsylvania opened her letter to colleagues with a statistic, and hoped it’d land with her Republican colleagues too. Wild is seeking a rarity in this Congress, a bipartisan coalition on a politically charged issue: federal legislation to offer broad protections for in vitro fertilization treatment.  

Wild’s letter, obtained by CBS News, urges fellow lawmakers to co-sponsor her proposal.  

“Every year in the United States, nearly 2% of all babies born are conceived with the help of Assisted Reproductive Technology,” her letter begins. Wild has reached out to “hundreds of colleagues” from both parties, according to a spokeswoman for Wild. 

Wild has had a breakthrough, but it’s admittedly a small one. Two House Republicans, both from the Hudson Valley-area of New York, have signed on as co-sponsors. Whether this the beginning, or the high-water mark of bipartisanship on the legislation will be determined in the weeks ahead.

“I’m glad that this bill is finally receiving the attention from across the aisle that it deserves,” Wild said in a statement to CBS News. “It reflects the outpouring of support I’ve seen from people in my community across the political spectrum, who are united in defending every hopeful parent’s ability to start or grow their family.”

The first Republican to sign onto the bill was Rep. Marc Molinaro, a first-term GOP House member from the Catskills in New York. He said he expects and hopes other Republicans will join him in supporting the bill.  

“I heard it from my constituents,” Molinaro told CBS News. “I know personally the value and the importance of making sure IVF is available to anyone who wishes to grow their family. I think it’s a very special thing.”

“I admire women who talk about their journey using IVF, because it comes from hard work,” he added. “It comes with difficult challenges, and you need to have a real strong support structure.”

Rep. Mike Lawler, who is also serving his first term as a Republican representing New York in the House, became the second GOP co-sponsor of the bill on Friday. Lawler’s spokesman confirmed the congressman’s support for the bill to CBS News.

Government protections — and potential restrictions — of IVF treatment surfaced unexpectedly as a potentially volatile election year political issue after a ruling from the Alabama Supreme Court that briefly halted some IVF services in the state.  

In February, Democratic Sen. Tammy Duckworth of Illinois attempted to expedite approval in the Senate for her version of the IVF legislation, which would provide a federal statutory right to IVF treatments, overruling any state’s restrictions. The effort was derailed by a Republican objection from GOP Sen. Cindy Hyde Smith of Mississippi, who said the proposal had “broad, sweeping language that would have serious consequences in our goal to protect life and religious freedoms.”

Wild introduced her own version of the legislation in the House, which has secured approximately 150 co-sponsors, still short of the 218 votes it’d need for passage if it came to a vote on the House floor.

Republicans control the floor schedule, committee hearing topics and the individual pieces of legislation that secure votes on the House floor, which reduces the chances of Wild’s bill getting an up or down vote before the end of this Congress next January.   

Democrats have control of the agenda and the focus of committee hearings in the Senate, but the need for a super majority to advance most legislation in the Senate may stand in the way of this new effort. On Wednesday, the Senate Judiciary Committee has a scheduled hearing to focus on women’s reproductive rights.  Duckworth, who utilized IVF and is the mother of two, is listed as a witness and is expected to discuss her IVF legislation.

“We will be examining this continued assault on reproductive freedoms in our hearing tomorrow, as well as proposals to safeguard reproductive rights like Sen. Duckworth’s Access to Family Building Act,” said Sen. Dick Durbin, the Illinois Democrat who chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee.

In the House, some Democrats appear reluctant to welcome GOP support for IVF protections because they fear it may damage their argument on abortion access going into the fall elections. The Republican support for the House legislation to codify federal protections for IVF was met with criticism from the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, which is targeting New York Republicans in the 2024 elections. A DCCC spokeswoman issued a statement to CBS News, “Molinaro can’t erase his extreme agenda that’s attacking reproductive freedoms and endangering New York women.”

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