IVF legislation would open door to child abusers creating kids

(The Daily Signal) – Liberals are trying to use the controversy over a state court decision about IVF to jam through expansive legislation with massive consequences.

On Feb. 16, the Alabama…

(The Daily Signal) – Liberals are trying to use the controversy over a state court decision about IVF to jam through expansive legislation with massive consequences.

On Feb. 16, the Alabama Supreme Court ruled that frozen embryos are considered persons under the Wrongful Death of a Minor Act. This bold, and yet legally limited, ruling sparked a national debate about the legal status of embryonic children. It also fueled unfounded attacks that Republican lawmakers, or anyone who does not voice opposition to the Alabama decision, wants to prohibit in vitro fertilization. This couldn’t be further from the truth.

Still, this has not stopped Sen. Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill.; Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash.; and Rep. Susan Wild, D-Pa., from using this opportunity to paint their Access to Family Building Act as the political solution.

But ignore the rhetoric: Far from merely protecting IVF, this act would establish a statutory right for any adult to access any assisted reproductive technologies to create a child. This would allow, for instance, a child abuser to use reproductive technologies to have a child.

Duckworth announced that she will push Wednesday for a unanimous consent vote—which allows bills to be passed quickly, without going through the normal review process—while the Senate is in session. Her goal is to manipulate Republicans concerned with political optics into giving their support for a bill that would harm, not help, families struggling with infertility.

But this bill would have significant repercussions.

The act “pre-empt[s] any state effort to limit such access,” including commonsense regulations. This means that Louisiana’s embryo protection act, Colorado’s ban on anonymous gamete donation, or Nebraska’s law that renders surrogacy-for-pay legally unenforceable would all be on the chopping block. Moreover, the act’s broad language would legalize embryo cloning and “designer babies” with CRISPR, a gene editing technology. Both options are unpopular with voters in the United States.

If this was not bad enough, the act exempts itself from the bipartisan Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993. This is the first time an act tries to sidestep RFRA. If passed, it would be detrimental to religious and pro-life organizations. Without religious freedom protections, the act could require that churches or pro-life clinics provide IVF health insurance coverage or access to reproductive technology in their facilities.

It is one thing to support access to IVF. It is another thing to remove all legal and ethical regulations that govern the practice of IVF and reproductive technologies. Parents and their children should be protected from an unregulated and unaccountable fertility industry, not left vulnerable to its abuses.

This is not the first time that Duckworth has tried to use unanimous consent to force an unpopular and legally problematic bill through the Senate.

Last year, she tried this same move with the failed Right to Build Families Act. The idea that any adult—biologically related or not—has a fundamental right to build a child through assisted reproductive technologies was unpopular among Republicans and Democrats. Thankfully, Sen. Cindy Smith-Hyde, R-Miss., blocked her request for unanimous consent and the act did not progress further.

Although the Access to Family Building Act uses softer language, the intent is still the same: Any adult, including child abusers, would have the right to build a child through assisted reproductive technology. As for churches or other pro-life groups, they would be forced to provide the same access to employers or patients, even against their religious beliefs.

Lawmakers should not feel pressured to go along with a bad faith move to require a unanimous consent vote on the Access to Family Building Act. This act removes all commonsense regulations from IVF and reproductive technologies and makes parents and their embryonic children vulnerable to careless treatment in the fertility industry.