Johnson: IVF protection up to states

U.S. House Speaker Johnson says IVF should be protected — just not by Congress.

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March 15, 2024 - 2:46 PM

House Speaker Mike Johnson, R-La., deserves credit for cutting a deal to fund the government despite the howling of the performance-politics faction of his right flank. Photo by Anna Rose Layden/Getty Images/Kansas Reflector

U.S. House Speaker Mike Johnson said Thursday that it’s up to states and not Congress to preserve access to in vitro fertilization, weighing in on a growing national debate and campaign issue.

“It’s not my belief that Congress needs to play a role here,” the Louisiana Republican said during a press conference at the House GOP retreat in West Virginia. “I think this is being handled by the states.”

Republicans, he said, support IVF as a way for people to begin or grow their families, as long as it’s handled “ethically.”

“And I think the states are handling that well,” Johnson said.

IVF access blew up into a nationwide problem for Republicans after the Alabama state Supreme Court ruled in February frozen embryos constitute “children” under state law. Democrats have stressed their support for reproductive rights and fertility treatments in contrast to the Alabama ruling.

The decision halted IVF access in the state until the legislature approved and Gov. Kay Ivey signed legislation this month to provide IVF clinics with civil and criminal immunity. That new law, however, has left numerous questions for clinics in Alabama.

Democrats attempt to pass legislation

Democrats in the U.S. Senate have tried to pass two bills that would have addressed access to IVF in the weeks since the Alabama state Supreme Court ruling, but Republican senators blocked them each time.

Illinois Democratic Sen. Tammy Duckworth in late February tried to pass her bill to protect IVF access nationwide, but Mississippi Republican Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith blocked the bill.

Washington state Democratic Sen. Patty Murray sought approval to pass her bill to expand access to IVF for military service members and veterans this week, but Oklahoma Republican Sen. James Lankford opposed her efforts.

Both Democratic senators tried to pass their bill through the unanimous consent process, which allows any senator to block the bill from moving forward. The Senate hasn’t yet held a roll call vote on either bill.

Several House GOP lawmakers have introduced resolutions to express the sense of Congress that IVF is a good thing and that Americans should have access to it, though those are not bills and therefore wouldn’t actually protect access to the procedure.

Johnson, speaking Thursday during the press conference, said he and the Republican Party support IVF and protecting it, just not with nationwide legislation.

“That’s a remarkable thing and it’s something we ought to protect and preserve,” Johnson said. “And I think our party is certainly committed to that.”

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