Dem 51
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GOP 49
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IVF Fight Heads to Congress

The Alabama IVF decision has, as we have pointed out, created a real headache for Republican politicians. On one hand, they don't want to say embryos aren't people, because they will anger some segment of the anti-choice crowd. On the other hand, they don't want to say embryos ARE people, because that creates any manner of legal, economic and political messes. To date, most GOP politicos, including Donald Trump, have vaguely said the Alabama decision is tricky, while also affirming their support for the availability of IVF. The careful reader will notice that nothing in there makes clear what, exactly, should be done to address the current situation.

If you would prefer a slightly more personal take on this quandary (and you have a New York Times subscription), Kristen Soltis Anderson is a Republican pollster, a devout Christian, and is about to have her second child made possible by IVF. She's written an op-ed that is quite powerful, and speaks to her belief that IVF must remain within reach for American families, while also making clear that she understands why some/many parents consider embryos to be their children. That said, Anderson does not share any thoughts as to what might be done to resolve the conflict she feels.

This week, two members of the U.S. Senate will offer Republicans a potential way forward. Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) and Patty Murray (D-WA) are going to bring up a bill that would establish a federal right of access to IVF and other fertility treatments. This also does not resolve the moral dilemma that some people feel, nor does it necessarily countermand the Alabama decision that embryos are people. Nonetheless, it would put IVF clinics, their patients, and their would-be patients on much firmer ground, and would presumably compel Alabama courts to come up with something more nuanced than the current policy.

We have absolutely no doubt that the two senators are doing this, first and foremost, because they believe in reproductive freedom. However, they are also too savvy not to be aware of the politics of the situation. The current plan is to ask the Senate for unanimous consent. This would allow the bill to pass the upper chamber without Republicans having to formally vote for it (all they have to do is remain silent and not oppose it). To the extent that there's a way for members of the GOP to thread the needle, this is it.

If one member objects, however, then the bill will have to go through normal order. And, at that point, every single member of the Senate will have to cast a vote. This vote is not going to be a problem for the Democrats, and it won't be a problem for some Republicans, but there are other Republicans who would have a very tough decision to make. The last time Duckworth and Murray brought up a bill like this, it was Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-MS) who objected to unanimous consent. Makes sense, since she's both a woman and is from a deep-red state, and so has as much cover as is humanly possible. But this issue has suddenly become much more salient, and this time, the bill won't be allowed to die if it doesn't get unanimous consent. So, Hyde-Smith, et al., are going to have to think long and hard about whether they want to block the measure.

If it does get through the Senate, then the calculus is pretty similar in the House. It is hard to imagine fundamentalist Christian Mike Johnson bringing the bill to the floor of his chamber, but there may well be enough members to bring it up through a discharge petition. If the bill somehow makes it to the finish line, then many people will cheer. And if it doesn't, well, reproductive rights will become an even heavier anchor around the necks of many Republicans running in 2024. (Z)

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