Catholic bishops object to Senate IVF bill, warn against deaths of preborn children — By: Catholic News Agency

U.S. Sen. Tammy Duckworth, D-Illinois, speaks during a news conference at the U.S. Capitol on protections for access to in vitro fertilization on Feb. 27, 2024, in Washington, D.C. / Credit: Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Mar 1, 2024 / 19:00 pm (CNA).

Catholic bishops are urging lawmakers to oppose a bill that would create a federally sanctioned right to access in vitro fertilization (IVF) — a fertility treatment that has resulted in the deaths of millions of human embryos in the United States.

The bill, called the Access to Family Building Act, was introduced by Sen. Tammy Duckworth, D-Illinois. This legislation would establish a federally protected right to IVF access, preempting state-imposed restrictions.

“We can understand the profound desire that motivates some of these couples to go to great lengths to have children, and we support morally licit means of doing so,” the heads of four United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ committees wrote in a letter to lawmakers.

“The solution, however, can never be a medical process that involves the creation of countless preborn children and results in most of them being frozen or discarded and destroyed,” the bishops emphasized.

The four signatories were Bishop Michael Burbidge, who chairs the USCCB’s Committee on Pro-Life Activities; Bishop Robert Barron, who chairs the Committee on Laity, Marriage, Family Life, and Youth; Archbishop Borys Gudziak, who chairs the Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development; and Bishop Kevin Rhoades, the chairman of the Committee for Religious Liberty.

IVF, the bishops warned, is “a threat to the most vulnerable of human beings.” They further rebuked the IVF industry as one that is “built on millions of children who are created to be destroyed or abandoned.” 

“Contrary to what some have claimed, a position that supports legal enshrinement of IVF, however well-intended, is neither pro-life nor pro-child,” the bishops added. “Approaches such as investing in life-affirming research on infertility, or strengthening support for couples who desire to adopt, would be better to explore.”

IVF is a fertility treatment in which doctors fuse sperm and eggs to create human embryos and implant them in the mother’s womb without a sexual act. Embryos that are intended to be implanted at a later date are frozen. Undesired embryos are routinely destroyed or used for scientific research, which kills those preborn children.

Duckworth’s IVF bill was introduced in response to an Alabama Supreme Court decision, which ruled that human embryos are legal persons under the state’s Wrongful Death of a Minor Act. With significant Republican support, both chambers of the Alabama Legislature passed a bill that would shield IVF clinics from criminal and civil liability in cases of embryo deaths.

Because of an objection on the Senate floor from Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith, R-Mississippi, the bill was blocked from advancing via unanimous consent and must go through the committee process before it can receive a vote. 

Hyde-Smith claimed that the bill, dubbed the Access to Family Building Act, would go “far beyond providing legal access to IVF.” She suggested that it would force religious groups to facilitate IVF procedures and cover such procedures in their insurance plans. She also said it would legalize human cloning, three-parent embryos, and gene-edited designer babies.

Duckworth rejected that characterization, claiming the legislation would simply prevent states from restricting access to IVF procedures. She said it would not force anyone to provide them or cover them. 

“This bill does three things and three things only,” Duckworth said in response to Hyde-Smith. 

“It protects the right of individuals to seek assisted reproductive technology without fear of being prosecuted,” Duckworth continued. “…It preserves the right of physicians to provide that assisted reproductive technology without fear of being prosecuted. And it also allows insurance companies to cover assisted reproductive technology.”

Hyde-Smith and dozens of other Republicans continued to emphasize that they support access to IVF despite the destruction to human life that is integral to the process. Several lawmakers have even suggested that supporting IVF is pro-life. 

“I support the ability for mothers and fathers to have total access to IVF and [to bring] new life into the world,” Hyde-Smith said when objecting to the proposal. “I also believe human life should be protected.”

Rep. Nancy Mace, R-South Carolina, has already introduced a resolution that would affirm the House of Representatives’ support for IVF. Supporters of IVF include former President Donald Trump, the National Republican Senatorial Committee, and the Congressional Leadership Fund, which is the main House Republican political action committee.

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