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Democrats block Cruz’ IVF bill, saying it doesn’t go far enough to protect the procedure

FILE - Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, speaks to the media during a press conference on the border, Sept. 27, 2023, on Capitol Hill in Washington. Democrats in search of flipping a U.S. Senate seat are watching Texas closely on Super Tuesday to see who voters nominate against Sen. Cruz.
Mariam Zuhaib
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AP
FILE - Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, speaks to the media during a press conference on the border, Sept. 27, 2023, on Capitol Hill in Washington. Democrats in search of flipping a U.S. Senate seat are watching Texas closely on Super Tuesday to see who voters nominate against Sen. Cruz.

WASHINGTON — U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz’s effort to protect access to in vitro fertilization was blocked on Wednesday as Democrats instead rallied around their own version of the legislation.

The bill, first introduced last month by Cruz and fellow conservative Sen. Katie Britt of Alabama, would have withheld Medicaid funding from any state that passes a ban on IVF, emphasizing a “need to protect both life and access to IVF treatments.” The Democrats’ version, however, aims to establish IVF as a federal right.

“Recent developments have caused some confusion and concern among parents and among those who wish to be parents,” Cruz said on the Senate floor. “This should be a clear and unmistakable federal law.”

Questions about IVF’s legal status first emerged after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in 2022 and allowed states to ban abortion. A ruling from the Alabama Supreme Court earlier this year said embryos are protected human life, causing some IVF clinics in that state to pause services.

Republicans have since scrambled to address IVF, which has widespread public support and could become a liability for the GOP in the anti-abortion legal landscape.

On Wednesday, Cruz and Britt requested a vote on their bill. Democrats blocked the effort, saying Cruz’s bill leaves too many legal loopholes and still allows states to restrict IVF.

“It is ridiculous to claim that this bill protects IVF when it does nothing of the sort,” said Sen. Patty Murray, D-Washington. “In fact, it explicitly allows states to restrict IVF in all sorts of ways. It’s literally in the bill text."

The bill was criticized from the right as well. The Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank, called Cruz’s approach a “solution in search of a problem” and an attempt to prop up the fertility industry. Cruz and other Republican supporters were simply “looking for ways to inoculate themselves against potential political attacks,” the group said.

It is also unclear whether the Cruz bill would have protected IVF, if it was restricted via a court ruling. The Texas Supreme Court is currently considering taking up a case that experts say could “upend IVF in Texas.” Plaintiffs argue that Texas’ new anti-abortion laws define life as beginning at conception, therefore granting embryos the same rights as living children.

Democrats are hoping to instead pass their own IVF bill led by Sen. Tammy Duckworth of Illinois, which aims to establish IVF and other assisted reproductive technologies as federal rights. That bill, which was first blocked by Republicans in February, is expected to receive a vote Thursday, though it is not expected to pick up enough Republican votes to pass. Two other Democratic efforts to give IVF federal protection failed earlier this year.

Cruz has previously criticized Democrats’ approach as “very broad” and claimed it would give the federal government authority over abortion.

“There’s a reason that no Republican supported it,” he said in an interview last month with Bloomberg, adding that Democrats would not support his own bill because they wanted to use IVF as a campaign issue.

“Every Democrat is going to tell voters that if you don’t vote for me, a Democrat, mean Republicans are going to come take away IVF,” Cruz said.

U.S. Rep. Colin Allred, D-Dallas, who is running against Cruz in November, has sought to tie the legal limbo of IVF to Cruz’s anti-abortion stance and the fall of federal abortion rights.

“We are here because of Ted Cruz, because of extremists like him, who placed technology like IVF at risk,” Allred said in a CBS interview last week. “It’s like the thief trying to sell you locks after they’ve robbed your house.”

Texas’ senior Sen. John Cornyn blasted the Democrats’ bill as unnecessary, saying he supports IVF but that the procedure is not under legal risk and does not require federal protection.

Copyright 2024 KERA

Issac Yu | The Texas Tribune