Senate Republicans voted against advancing a legislative package on Thursday that would’ve required all insurance providers under the Federal Employee Health Benefits system to cover infertility treatments.

The highly anticipated Right to IVF Act, championed by Illinois Sen. Tammy Duckworth, would’ve also expanded access to various reproductive treatments for service members, veterans and others in the private sector.

The legislation needed 60 votes to advance, and failed in a vote of 48-47. Among Republicans, only Sen. Susan Collins, Maine, and Lisa Murkowski, Alaska, voted yes.

“I don’t have it in me to beat around the bush today,” Duckworth said following the vote. “I am angry — really, really angry. If Republicans actually cared as much about protecting IVF as they do protecting Donald Trump’s poll numbers, tis would have been a simple ‘yes’ vote.”

The bill aimed to establish what Democratic senators called a “statutory right” to reproductive care, especially against conservative attempts to block abortion post-Roe and related ethical questions about the personhood rights of embryos used in fertilization procedures. It mashes together four bills introduced before by Democrats, including New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker, Washington Sen. Patty Murray and Virginia Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine.

“I have significant reservations about the bill’s overly broad mandates for insurers to pay for treatment costs – but I want to be clear on my support for a family’s right to access IVF,” wrote Murkowski on X, formerly known as Twitter.

In vitro fertilization, in particular, is a common procedure used by families who struggle to conceive, but it is also very expensive and insurance coverage of it varies widely. The Right to IVF Act wants to set a baseline coverage mandate for it and other forms of artificial reproductive technology, including artificial insemination and procedures that handle embryos, eggs or sperm. It would also give OPM authority to define what other services might fall under the definition of ART.

In addition, the bill would ensure service members have the opportunity to preserve sperm or eggs prior to deploying to a combat zone or a hazardous duty assignment, or after injury or illness. For veterans, it would authorize fertility treatment and counseling, ensure continuity of fertility care after a change of station, provide access to use of surrogates, and streamline eligibility for these benefits.

In March, the departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs lifted health care restrictions on IVF for same-sex or unmarried individuals.

For feds, many FEHB providers do cover artificial reproductive procedures, thanks to recent requirements set by the Office of Personnel Management. OPM has said it encouraged carriers to go beyond minimum coverage and, to date, 24 carriers have done so.

However, this bill would have made expanded coverage a standard across all plans, given some that include ART are not open to everyone.

Ahead of the vote, the White House put out a statement strongly supporting the Senate bill. OPM declined to comment on the legislation.

“The Senate squandered a chance to give many federal employees the insurance coverage they need to express their families,” said Stacey Young, president of DOJ Gen, in a statement. “But OPM can bring badly needed help for plan year 2025 without Congress by mandating that plans cover IVF medications and treatments. This administration has positioned itself as a supporter of IVF; this is a perfect opportunity to show that.”

Though for years the topic of infertility felt taboo, doctors and health care advocates have said it’s a fairly common condition. According to the World Health Organization, one in six people worldwide experience infertility, and it can affect men and women.

Election year

Democrats were hoping Thursday’s vote would be a successful rallying point on the highly contentious issue of reproductive health care that is currently being fought over by the federal government, Supreme Court and state legislatures. With it being an election year, it’s particularly in their interest to appeal to the large share of single-issue voters backing abortion rights, which has increased, according to recent polls.

On Capitol Hill, there’s been a lot of back and forth on the issue, particularly over ethical concerns raised by any embryos discarded or unused during collection for IVF.

Still, some House Republicans voiced their support for IVF in a February resolution, which is not a law but expresses the sentiments or official position of the chamber. Senate Republicans also blocked a measure in February to expand access to IVF, calling it an overreach with “poison pill” riders.

“After clamoring to get on the record in support of IVF after the Alabama Supreme Court ruling, Senate Republicans had a chance to prove that claimed support by simply getting out of the way of our efforts to pass my bill that would protect IVF access nationwide — and they blocked it,” said Sen. Duckworth in February. The military veteran had both her children through IVF.

In another legislative volley just this week, Senate Democrats torpedoed a Republican bill that would cut off Medicaid funding to states that prohibit IVF, arguing that doesn’t go far enough.

An on June 11, Republicans tanked a Rules Committee record vote led by Virginia Rep. Gerry Connolly to amend the 2025 defense bill in furtherance of IVF coverage.

In a post on X, the congressman pointed out that Republicans will have access to IVF coverage themselves next year. That’s because of a D.C. law effective Jan. 1, 2025, that says “a health insurer offering a large group health benefit plan shall provide coverage for the diagnosis and treatment of infertility, including in vitro fertilization.”

The Affordable Care Act requires members of Congress and staff to get insurance via the D.C. exchange, which will become subject to the new law.

“Because those plans will now be required to cover IVF, members of Congress next year will have access to IVF coverage that the FEHB program does not currently mandate,” a spokesperson said.

In a statement including signatures from all Republican Senators, lawmakers said before Thursday’s vote that they “strongly support continued nationwide access to IVF.”

“Senate Democrats have embraced a Summer of Scare Tactics—a partisan campaign of false fearmongering intended to mislead and confuse the American people,” the statement read.

Some signatories have pointed out that IVF is currently legal and available in all 50 states, and that their bill, the IVF Protection Act, is the “only one” that safeguards access, according to a statement from Sen. Katie Britt, R-Ala.

Molly Weisner is a staff reporter for Federal Times where she covers labor, policy and contracting pertaining to the government workforce. She made previous stops at USA Today and McClatchy as a digital producer, and worked at The New York Times as a copy editor. Molly majored in journalism at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

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