Opinion: Why are Republicans sabotaging IVF protections that so many Americans want?

Editor’s Note: Lia Buffa De Feo is a writer and infertility advocate. She is a mother through IVF who lives in New York City, and  she writes the weekly newsletter Fly Bravely. The views expressed in this commentary are hers. View more opinion at CNN.

Growing up in an Italian-American home where family was everything, I’d always wanted to be a mother. There’s a hidden compartment in my jewelry box that, for as long as I can remember, has held pieces with sentimental value — my first locket, the Pinocchio watch I learned to tell time on and my half of the BFF necklace I shared with my elementary school friend. I’d kept them for decades because I had always hoped that one day I would give them to my daughter. Motherhood was a part of my identity even before I met my husband. My daughter wouldn’t be here today without access to IVF, as we are one of the millions of families that required assistance to conceive and bring a child into this world.

Lia Buffa De Feo - Resolve.org
Lia Buffa De Feo - Resolve.org

That’s why this week, I traveled from my home state of New York to Washington, DC, where I shared my story and advocated in support of the Right to IVF Act, which Senate Republicans blocked in a vote on Thursday. The act would have established a clear and enforceable nationwide right to receive or provide IVF services. It would also have made IVF treatment more affordable by mandating insurance coverage under employer-sponsored insurance and certain public plans while expanding coverage for millions of Americans, including veterans and those serving in the military. Access to IVF is a lifeline for countless Americans who want to build their families, as it was for me. 

Chances are you or someone you know has experienced infertility — roughly one in six people worldwide do. Despite the widespread need for medical assistance to build a family, access to affordable care is inconsistent and unattainable for many. My own path to motherhood was a tremendous struggle, both emotionally and financially. But it’s not only a highly personal matter; it’s critical to the future of our country. The United States’ birth rate is declining at an alarming rate, down 2% last year. Birth statistics show babies are being born to older mothers. Many people are delaying starting their families until after they have established their careers, and fertility declines as women enter their 30s. An aging and shrinking population raises concerns about a sufficient workforce to support elder care and pay into Social Security.

Infertility impacts Americans on both sides of aisle and the ability to access this medical assistance should be met with bipartisan support, particularly given the widespread backing for IVF and insurance coverage for fertility treatments. And yet Senate Republicans opposed the Right to IVF Act, deeming it unnecessary overreach and a political show vote.

Some GOP lawmakers argue that life begins at conception. This is the same premise that underpinned the Alabama Supreme Court ruling that embryos used in IVF are children and that those who destroy them can be held liable for wrongful death — a decision that threw fertility patients in limbo before the swift backlash led Republican lawmakers in the state to back a law aimed at protecting IVF patients. But this line of thinking is still common among certain groups. Just yesterday, Southern Baptists voted to condemn IVF procedures.

Republican lawmakers should instead listen to their constituents and join Democratic Sens. Cory Booker of New Jersey, Tammy Duckworth of Illinois and Patty Murray of Washington — who introduced the Right to IVF Act — to provide more support for IVF.

As of 2023, only 21 states and Washington, DC, had enacted laws requiring at least some insurance coverage for infertility services. Most plans that include coverage have limitations. In my home state of New York, coverage is only mandated for large corporate plans. Tricare, the plan that provides health insurance for military members and their families — covering more than 10 million people — doesn’t cover assisted reproductive technology services, including IVF. The Affordable Care Act defines 10 essential health benefits  that must be covered, including pregnancy, maternity and newborn care. However, assisted reproductive care is excluded.

We should support Americans who want children, and no one should have to choose between financial security and building a family. I know firsthand how difficult it can be. My husband and I went through several rounds of IVF, which drained our savings account because it wasn’t covered by our corporate health care plan at the time. By our fourth round of IVF, I had a new job with a company based out of Seattle that offered IVF coverage. It’s because of that coverage that we were able to try one more time. That last round brought us our daughter, Carolina, who will be 6 years old next month.

If you’re someone, especially a Republican, who cares about this matter, I urge you to reach out to your elected representatives and express your support for the Right to IVF Act. Give your fellow Americans the joy of hearing the four words that mean everything to me: “I love you, Mommy.”

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