A measure that would provide federal protection for in vitro fertilization (IVF) has fizzled, after Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith (R–Miss.) blocked a bid to pass it by unanimous consent. The bill, introduced by Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D–Ill.), was designed to address uncertainty about fertility treatments in a post-Roe world.
Many doctors—and patients—are worried that anti-abortion laws could be used to block IVF treatments or at least criminalize elements of them. For instance, fetal personhood laws, which state that life begins at conception, could be used to criminalize the discarding of unused embryos. And even in the absence of explicit bans, personhood laws or other anti-abortion statutes could put a chill on the provision of fertility treatments.
Duckworth requested her bill—dubbed the Right To Build Families Act of 2022—be passed by unanimous consent, a process by which a bill can pass with no formal vote if there are no objections to it. But Hyde-Smith objected, prompting Duckworth—who conceived two daughters via IVF—to lash out on Twitter: "The same Republicans who claim to 'defend family values' just blocked my bill to protect the right to start a family through IVF."
Duckworth told Axios that she plans to introduce the legislation again.
The Right To Build Families Act would undeniably be good for protecting reproductive freedom. But it also represents an attempt by federal lawmakers to usurp state rights.
Duckworth's bill would have stipulated that states cannot "prohibit or unreasonably limit" anyone from "accessing assisted reproductive technology" or "retaining all rights regarding the use of reproductive generic materials, including gametes." Nor could states ban health care providers from "performing assisted reproductive technology treatments or procedures" or providing information related to them, or insurance providers from covering such procedures. The bill would also create a private right of action against those who violate the law, and give the Department of Justice the right to take civil action against violators.
Many conservatives have dismissed the idea that anti-abortion advocates are or should be coming for IVF next. "I fully support fertility treatments and I think they deserve the protection of the law," former Vice President Mike Pence told CBS's Face the Nation last month.
But some state Right to Life branches do condemn IVF. It's "an artificial and unnatural procedure whereby human beings are scientifically manufactured in a test-tube. In the process, countless human lives are thrown away and systematically destroyed," states the Illinois Right to Life website.
"If parents agree to implant into the womb all of their embryonic children created via in vitro fertilization, then [Texas Right to Life] is neutral on the procedure," the organization states. "However, parents typically fertilize more embryos than they are prepared to implant into the womb," and this "ignores rather than enhances respect for human life."
While some state anti-abortion laws contain explicit language exempting IVF, others do not, notes Axios:
- In Virginia, a bill has been pre-filed for the 2023 legislative session that states that life begins at fertilization, and the does not contain language that exempts embryos created through IVF.
- Florida state Rep. Michele Rayner (D) told reporters at a conference hosted by the State Innovation Exchange last week that she expects her Republican colleagues to introduce personhood legislation during next year's session that could put fertility treatments in jeopardy.
Louisiana already makes it illegal to discard unused embryos unless they are deemed nonviable, while Republican Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp has said he'd be open to similar legislation in his state. And South Dakota last year considered a bill to make fertility clinics report to the state how many embryos were created in their treatments.
An interesting look at regional cultural differences (or lack thereof) in the U.S., from Alice Evans, a visiting associate professor at Yale. Drawing from a range of research published since 2020, Evans looks at regional trends when it comes to attitudes toward religion, gender equality, and race. Start here:
Why are ???????? attitudes towards race, religion and gender no longer divided by region?
Why is the South no longer the Bible Belt?
Elsewhere in the world, economists have demonstrated long-run cultural persistence.
Why has that diminished in the US?https://t.co/oxBOQED39T
— Alice Evans (@_alice_evans) December 21, 2022
Headaches mount as the IRS begins monitoring small transactions. "A recent tax change intended to crack down on tax evasion by small businesses and those operating in the 'gig' economy will mean more paperwork and headaches from the Internal Revenue Service" for people like Washington woodworker Dennis Turbeville, notes The New York Times. Turbeville uses Venmo "to sell his wares, collect payments on a rental property and split personal expenses with family and friends." Under the new rule—which was part of the 2021 American Rescue Plan—anyone who made more than $600 from gig work or online sales platforms (Etsy, eBay, Amazon, etc.) must report the income to the IRS.
"For millions of Americans, the new requirement means additional tax forms, potentially higher tax bills and a lot of confusion," the Times points out. "That is stirring anxiety among some of the middle-class taxpayers and independent business owners President Biden promised would [be] spared from greater tax scrutiny."
Here's how efforts to pass the $1.7 trillion spending bill are going:
Omnibus problems right now:
—Dispute over an immigration amendment threatens to disrupt the coalition to pass it
—A fearsome DC storm could complicate vote timing
—Lawmakers want to go home for Christmas
—Government shuts down Friday
—Republicans control the House in 13 days
— Sahil Kapur (@sahilkapur) December 22, 2022
And another update on what's inside of it: a raise for airport cops. "Tucked into the 4,000-plus-page omnibus spending bill that's making its way through Congress this week is a provision that will provide huge pay increases to Transportation Security Administration (TSA) workers and will make the agency more difficult to abolish or privatize," notes Reason's Eric Boehm.
Using her clemency power — her power to remit fines — Gov. Kate Brown forgives more than $1.8 million in unpaid court fines and fees in traffic violations that, until now, prevented nearly 7,000 Oregonians from getting their driver's license reinstated. https://t.co/z5XAng9bVN
— David Menschel (@davidminpdx) December 22, 2022
• Former FTX and Alameda Research executives Gary Wang and Caroline Ellison have pleaded guilty to federal fraud charges and are now cooperating in the prosecution of FTX founder Sam Bankman-Fried.
• "A jury has convicted D.C. police officer Terence Sutton of second degree murder in the October 2020 death of Karon Hylton-Brown," reports DCist. "They also found Sutton and his supervisor, Lieutenant Andrew Zabavsky, guilty of obstruction and conspiracy for trying to cover up the circumstances surrounding Hylton-Brown's death."
• "Many popular assumptions for explaining heightened contemporary levels of white evangelical support of the Republican Party are demonstrably false," writes Musa al-Gharbi at Interfaith America.
• The war on Christmas comes for drag queens.
• "Turns out maybe we didn't need antitrust reform: we just needed two obscenely rich tech CEOs to be totally out of touch with humanity," Mike Masnick points out.
• Reminder: Sen. Tom Cotton (R–Ark.) is the worst:
.@SenTomCotton, on the floor, speaks against the EQUAL Act, legislation addressing disparities in crack and powder cocaine sentences.
He proposes changing sentencing on powder cocaine to match the current crack cocaine sentences. His amendment would raise the powder sentence. pic.twitter.com/LdI54Rog1J
— Alex Thomas (@AlexHouseThomas) December 21, 2022
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