Cantwell Speaks in Favor of Bill to Protect IVF Nationwide, Increase Coverage in WA

Cantwell delivers floor speech ahead of vote aiming to codify access to fertility treatments like in vitro fertilization into federal law; Republican lawmakers block Right to IVF Act by 48-47 vote

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) addressed her colleagues on the Senate floor before a vote on the Right to IVF Act, which would protect and expand access to in vitro fertilization (IVF) and other assisted reproductive services nationwide. Sen. Cantwell is a cosponsor of the bill.

Every American should have a chance to use fertility treatments to bring new life into this world,” Sen. Cantwell said. “[IVF] is safe, it is well established, and many, many, many American families rely on it. In fact, more than 2 percent of all children born in the U.S. are born as a result as IVF. We have IVF to thank for over 2,000 new lives created in the State of Washington just in 2022 […] it shouldn’t be controversial. That’s why I can’t believe that we have to take this action today – because there are those that are trying to take this hard-won right away from families.”

“Since the Dobbs decision affected the constitutional right to abortion, we’ve seen waves and waves of different things that affect our healthcare. In Alabama in February, the state supreme court shockingly ruled that frozen embryos legally have the same rights as living children,” Sen. Cantwell continued. “At a Pacific Northwest facility in Seattle, a reproductive endocrinologist said her office got a wave of phone calls from fertility patients wanting to move embryos there, to the Northwest, after the Alabama ruling. They were terrified that the ruling could cause complications for the embryos and the future of their IVF process. The doctor said there is an increase in cost, in complexity, and risk of damage to embryos associated with moving them because of the possibility of threats to IVF access.”

The vote, which required 60 votes to advance the bill, failed 48-47. (Majority Leader Chuck Schumer changed his vote from yes to no to permit reconsideration of the bill in the future.)

Protections for IVF are critical in the wake of ongoing Republican efforts to legally treat embryos and fetuses as people. In February, the Alabama State Supreme Court ruled that frozen embryos should be legally considered the same as children. IVF services then paused in the state, although some clinics resumed services after the state legislature passed a bill to counteract the extreme decision’s effect.

The Right to IVF Act includes provisions that would:

  • Establish a statutory right for individuals to access, providers to provide, and insurers to cover IVF and other assisted reproductive services;
  • Authorize the U.S. Department of Justice to enforce these statutory rights, as well as establish a private right of action to allow adversely affected parties to sue;
  • Increase affordability of fertility care, including IVF, by requiring employer-sponsored insurance plans and other public insurance plans to cover fertility treatments;
  • Standardize the baseline of high-quality fertility treatment coverage under private health insurance plans and protect Americans against excessive out-of-pocket costs;
  • Promote the standardization and widespread availability of affordable fertility treatment coverage under employer-sponsored health insurance plans;
  • Require insurance carriers that participate in the Federal Employees Health Benefit Program – the largest employer-sponsored health insurance plan in the world – to cover assisted reproductive services, including IVF treatments;
  • Permanently authorize and enhance fertility treatment and counseling options for veterans and servicemembers, expand family-building assistance, improve eligibility rules, and strengthen research on servicemember and veteran long-term reproductive health; and
  • Expand servicemembers’ access to fertility services before deployment to a combat zone or hazardous duty assignment and after an injury or illness.

Although over 20 states have passed infertility insurance coverage laws, Washington state has not – so this bill would expand IVF coverage for Washingtonians who have insurance through their employer or through the Federal Employes Health Benefit Program, which provides coverage to nearly 8.3 million federal enrollees and their dependents. More than 200,000 Washingtonians struggle with infertility.

Last week, the Senate fell short of the 60 votes needed to advance the Right to Contraception Act, which would have guaranteed the right for people to obtain and use contraceptives and for health providers to prescribe contraceptives without interference. Sen. Cantwell, who is also a cosponsor of the Right to Contraception Act, delivered a speech on the Senate floor urging her colleagues to consider the strain on our nation’s reproductive care delivery system when individual states enforce draconian laws that strip away rights from women and families. In her speech, Sen. Cantwell warned of anti-choice activists and their efforts to pass even more restrictive laws, “They’re not done.” 

Last month, the University of Washington released a study indicating that Washington state’s abortion providers have performed 50% more abortions for patients traveling in from other states. The study also found that all patients in Washington – regardless of whether they’re traveling in from anti-choice states — are getting abortions approximately one week later, compared to before the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization decision overturned the protections established by Roe v. Wade, nearly a half century earlier.

“Washington saw the largest increase in patients from those states who had banned abortion states like Texas and Idaho, Louisiana, and Florida,” Sen. Cantwell said. “Now imagine if they carry this further and ban contraception too. Our state doesn’t want to be impacted in the delivery of care. It wants people to be able to see a physician when they need to see a physician, get the care when they need to get the care.”

Sen. Cantwell continues to fight hard to defend reproductive freedom in Washington state and nationwide. A full timeline of her actions since a draft of the Dobbs decision was leaked in spring 2022, making clear the Supreme Court’s intent to overturn the longstanding reproductive care precedent established by Roe v. Wade, is available HERE.

Video of today’s full floor speech is available HERE, audio HERE, and a transcript HERE.