In mid-December, three U.S. lawmakers made history by unveiling the first federal legislation aimed at protecting access to assisted reproductive technology (ART). Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-Illinois), Sen. Patty Murray (D-Washington) and Rep. Susan Wild (D-Pennsylvania) introduced the Right to Build Families Act.
The measure is a response to the U.S. Supreme Court’s Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization decision overturning Roe v. Wade. ART advocates say that ruling doesn’t only affect abortion rights but also opens the door for laws restricting assisted reproduction.
So far, Louisiana is the only state to place restrictions on in vitro fertilization (IVF), banning the disposal of embryos. Two other states, Alabama and South Carolina, exempt IVF from laws restricting access to abortion.
What would the legislation do?
The Right to Build Families Act would protect everyone’s ART rights for family-building. The main components of the proposal include:
- Forbidding states from restricting the rights of all individuals to access ART
- Protecting healthcare groups that provide ART services and counseling
- Empowering the U.S. Justice Department to take civil action against states that violate the legislation
- Allow individuals, healthcare providers and U.S. Attorneys General to file lawsuits for violations
- Forbidding states from regulating gametes and other reproductive genetic material
Sen. Murray says the measure protects the rights of Americans to build families on their own terms. The legislation has personal meaning for Sen. Duckworth, whose two daughters were born using IVF. Duckworth is a decorated U.S. Army helicopter pilot who lost both legs in 2004 when a rocket-propelled grenade hit her Black Hawk helicopter in Iraq.
Studies show as many as one in four women experience infertility. IVF is one of the main options for them to have biological children. A significant number of the 18 million Americans who identify as LGBTQ often rely on ART to start their families. Duckworth says she may never have been able to have a family without access to assisted reproduction methods, and everyone deserves that right. This legislation, if passed, would protect that right.