The Fight For IVF Is Far From Over

Amanda Zurawski made national news because she experienced every pregnant person’s nightmare.

In 2022, the Texas native was told her pregnancy was nonviable at 17 weeks. But because her fetus still had cardiac activity, doctors refused to provide an abortion, fearing criminal and civil punishment under the state’s near-total abortion ban. After days of waiting to get sick enough for emergency care, Zurawski became septic and the hospital agreed to induce labor.

The experience left Zurawski in the intensive care unit with severe damage to her reproductive organs, leaving her unable to carry a future pregnancy to term. She was one of 20 women who sued the state of Texas because they were denied medically necessary abortions; the state Supreme Court recently ruled against them.

Zurawski and her husband have since turned to in vitro fertilization and surrogacy to start their family, but those services are in peril now, too.

The Texas Supreme Court is currently weighing whether to take a case that could threaten IVF access. Though the details of the case are not identical, it could have a similar outcome to the recent Alabama Supreme Court decision that ruled frozen embryos should be legally defined as children — and that discarding them, as is common in the IVF process, would be equivalent to causing the death of a child.

The ruling, announced in February, immediately caused several IVF clinics in the state to pause services. Shortly thereafter, the state legislature stepped in and passed a bill to protect IVF in Alabama.

Terrified that what happened in Alabama could happen in her home state, Zurawski transported her frozen embryos out of Texas — a time-consuming and expensive move.

“Even though the Alabama decision was temporary, that had a catastrophic impact,” Zurawski told HuffPost. “One day, one hour of delay can make or break an entire cycle.” 

“IVF is very much on the chopping block right now — on a state-by-state basis, but also nationwide,” she said. “They have come for abortion. They’re coming for IVF. They’re coming for contraception. Certainly, I believe that surrogacy would be on the table, if it’s not already.” 

Democrats and Republicans have been sparring over national IVF rules since the Alabama ruling. Most Republicans shied away from speaking publicly about their stance on IVF, given that many support anti-abortion legislation that would also threaten the fertility treatment.

Recently, Republican Sens. Ted Cruz (Texas) and Katie Britt (Ala.) introduced a bill that seeks to protect IVF nationwide by barring states from receiving Medicaid funding if they implement an IVF ban. But Democrats and other IVF supporters are concerned that the Republican bill could motivate states to reject Medicaid funding.

“Calling your bill The IVF Protection Act without doing anything to protect IVF is despicable,” Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.) said of the GOP bill during a Wednesday press conference. “It is akin to an arsonist selling you fire insurance that doesn’t cover arson.” 

Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) blocked Cruz and Britt from bringing their IVF bill to the Senate floor on Wednesday. Murray and Duckworth have championed IVF protections for years, forecasting that Republicans would come for fertility services after Roe v. Wade was overturned in 2022. 

Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.) speaks alongside Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) during a news conference on access to IVF treatments outside of the U.S. Capitol Building on June 12, 2024 in Washington, DC.
Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.) speaks alongside Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) during a news conference on access to IVF treatments outside of the U.S. Capitol Building on June 12, 2024 in Washington, DC. Anna Moneymaker via Getty Images

Though Senate Republicans have repeatedly blocked IVF bills from Duckworth and Murray, the two Democrats, along with Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.), are renewing their IVF legislation this week with a Senate floor vote on their Right To IVF Act. The legislation would establish a statutory right to access IVF, protect providers from criminalization, expand IVF insurance coverage, and include IVF protections as well as extended access for veterans and service members.

“My battle with infertility was one of the most heartbreaking struggles of my life. My miscarriage [was] more painful than any wound I earned in Iraq,” said Duckworth, who had both of her daughters using IVF, at the Wednesday press conference. “So excuse me if I took it personally when the same Republicans who rely on NRA blood money to get elected, suggested that women like me are committing acts akin to murder when all we’re trying to do is create life and not to have to suffer through more miscarriages.”

The Senate is expected to vote on Democrats’ IVF bill on Thursday. Republicans are likely to block it again. 

Zurawski hopes IVF protections can be passed on the federal level because she doesn’t trust governments in red states to hold her embryos without the threat of criminalizing her. She pointed to the recent news that the Texas GOP is considering a platform that advocates giving legal personhood to embryos — and by extension may implicitly endorse the death penalty for abortion and IVF patients.

The Texas GOP also wants to outlaw “human embryo trafficking,” or moving embryos out of state — exactly what Zurawski and her husband did. 

“It’s getting harder and harder to live here [in Texas]. But I’m a fighter and I feel like I need to stay and fight,” Zurawski said. 

“Women and pregnant people in this country keep getting kicked while we’re down,” she added. “They would prefer for us to be quiet and not share our stories because then they can pretend like the problem doesn’t exist. But that’s just not in my nature.”