Republicans introduce bill promoting ‘restorative reproductive rights’

Senate Republicans are introducing a bill that would support alternatives to in vitro fertilization (IVF) by promoting medical services that attempt to address causes of infertility among women.

The Reproductive Empowerment and Support through Optimal Restoration Act, or RESTORE Act, was announced Thursday and co-sponsored by GOP Sens. Cindy Hyde-Smith (Miss.) and James Lankford (Okla.). The purpose of the bill appears to be to reduce the use of IVF services among people trying to have children.

The legislation would do so by promoting awareness and access to what is called restorative reproductive medicine, which the International Institute for Restorative Reproductive Medicine defines as “any scientific approach to reproductive medicine that seeks to cooperate with or restore the normal physiology and anatomy of the human reproductive system.”

The bill specifically cites conditions such as endometriosis, adenomyosis, polycystic ovary syndrome, uterine fibroids and blocked fallopian tubes as common causes of infertility. It would also prohibit “discrimination” against health care providers who don’t provide “assisted reproductive technology,” such as IVF.

Funds from Title X awards would also be made eligible to potential grant recipients engaged primarily in restorative reproductive medicine, per the release.

IVF became a hot-button topic in the national reproductive rights conversation this year after the Alabama Supreme Court ruled that frozen embryos created through IVF could be considered children under state law pertaining to the wrongful death of a minor.

“I strongly support treatments such as IVF, which have helped so many families experience the miracle of life,” Hyde-Smith said in a statement. “Healing the actual causes of infertility will only help increase the success rate for couples trying to conceive.”

“It’s time that we look at paying serious attention helping women and couples affected by infertility by treating the underlying conditions that make it hard, if not impossible, to have a baby,” she added.

The Alabama Supreme Court ruling halted IVF services in the state as providers deemed the legal risk too great. The Alabama Legislature later passed a bill providing civil and criminal immunity to providers less than a month after the state’s Supreme Court ruling.

The issue put Republicans in a tough spot as they both supported the court’s ruling to consider embryos the same as children while denouncing the fallout of that decision, limiting access to a treatment that enables patients to become parents.

At the core of the conversation was the disposal of frozen embryos that are ultimately not used for pregnancy. Lankford cited this issue when speaking to NOTUS, who were the first to report the introduction of the RESTORE Act.

“There are so many embryos created and frozen that are then abandoned, that becomes an issue for someone — just a moral, ethical issue,” Lankford said.

Both the Oklahoma Republican and RESTORE Act emphasized there is no opposition to IVF services. He said he was introducing the bill with Hyde-Smith because “we want the people to also think about the bigger issue of infertility while we’re talking about IVF.”

Democrats and Republicans in the Senate currently have two competing IVF protection bills. Democrats on Wednesday blocked the GOP’s bill arguing that it does not nearly go far enough to protect IVF access.

The Senate will vote Thursday on the Democrats’ IVF bill, the Right to IVF Act.

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