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Republican Lawmakers Should Continue Effort to Protect In Vitro Fertilization

Vanessa Brown Calder

Last week, all 49 Senate Republicans signed a letter stating their “strong” support for continued nationwide access to in vitro fertilization (IVF). Meanwhile, Senators Ted Cruz and Katie Britt put forward legislation to discourage states from restricting IVF, which Senate Democrats blocked.

There are many reasons Republican lawmakers should continue legislative efforts to protect IVF from overzealous regulation, particularly given that state legislation could have possible negative implications for the practice.

The most obvious reason is that IVF creates human life. Critics trivialize this point, but the benefit is real rather than theoretical. Assisted reproductive technology (ART) resulted in more than 97,000 infants being born in the most recent year reported, and IVF was used in more than 99 percent of ART procedures.

IVF makes up the vast majority of ART procedures for a reason: It is the most successful way to treat a range of fertility issues. IVF is more successful than the next most common ART procedure, intrauterine insemination, by a long shot. Success rates for intrauterine insemination are only 13 percent per cycle for women younger than 35, while IVF success rates are greater than 50 percent per cycle for the same population (note that success varies with age and other factors).

One reason IVF is successful is that it allows for much greater oversight and control over the reproductive process. And because IVF provides greater control over reproduction, it can be diagnostic in nature, allowing doctors and patients to understand where reproduction went wrong and take steps to address it.

During IVF, doctors can directly observe egg quality and maturity, fertilization, and embryo development. For example, if fertilization fails, an embryologist can subsequently use intracytoplasmic sperm injection to inject a single sperm into the cytoplasm of an egg during IVF. IVF and intracytoplasmic sperm injection constitute revolutionary developments in infertility treatment.

Protecting access to IVF is a pro‐​natal policy. Although fertility subsidies often fail or raise fertility slightly at a high cost, safeguarding access to IVF is free and has a proven record of increasing births. Unlike other policies intended to incentivize births, which are growing in popularity, a policy protecting IVF allows the government to remain neutral in families’ choices. It simply permits Americans to overcome barriers to expanding their families.

Conversely, regulatory measures that limit the number of embryos created, ban preimplantation genetic testing, or reduce the number of eggs fertilized would necessarily hinder IVF’s efficacy and reduce the number of children born. They are, therefore, anti‐​natal policies.

In addition to being pro‐​natal, protecting IVF leads to individual freedom. Individuals must be able to form families, and IVF is a critical avenue for would‐​be parents to do that.

Because IVF creates life, it is extraordinarily valuable to the children that result from it, would‐​be parents struggling with fertility challenges, and society at large.

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