Virginia Public Radio: Virginia elected officials in Washington and Richmond push IVF protections

VIRGINIA PUBLIC RADIO, BRAD KUTNER

After Alabama’s Supreme Court found fertilized eggs are “unborn people” in the wake of the rollback of Roe v. Wade, Virginia’s elected officials in Washington and Richmond are pushing to protect in vitro fertilization, or IVF.

“Since the overturn of Roe with the Dobbs decision we have seen politicians and judges who have been working to try and strip away the rights of women and our families,” said Congresswoman Abigail Spanberger.

She was speaking in support of legislation she cosponsored Monday which would protect the use of IVF nationwide. The effort comes after the highest court in Alabama found life begins quote “at conception” meaning the discarding of fertilized eggs, often part of IVF, is considered an act of wrongful death.

Other members of Virginia’s congressional delegation signed on to co-sponsor the effort include Gerry Connolly and Jennifer McClellan, both Democrats.

In Richmond, with the 2024 legislative session nearly at its end, it’s too late to submit a bill explicitly protecting IVF. But leadership in either chamber, or Governor Glenn Youngkin, could move to add language protecting it as part of budget negotiations.

Legislating in the budget is often frowned upon, and any language would only count for one year and would require reauthorization next year. And while a bill could be filed in 2025 to offer the same protections hence fourth, lawmakers argued something should be done and soon.

Northern Virginia Delegate Vivian Watts’s daughter-in-law is among families who’ve conceived via IVF. Watts said that process undoubtedly involved discarding non-viable, fertilized eggs.

“Am I now to be regarded as a murder[er] because those eggs weren’t viable?” she asked.

And Senate Majority Leader Scott Surovell may push for budget language in his chamber as well.

“I think the Alabama decision spotlights the worst-case scenarios people said would never happen,” the senator told Radio IQ. “And in light of that we need to adopt protections to make sure it never happens in Virginia,”

The budget process is still in its early stages, with both chambers debating priorities before sending a compromise budget to Governor Youngkin.

The Governor, meanwhile, recently marched with pro-life advocates such as the Family Foundation of Virginia which argues life is sacred from “from fertilization to natural death.”

But a statement from his press secretary Monday said Youngkin “will always protect access to IVF and fertility treatments that Virginians rely on to realize their dream of building a family.”

In a statement, Family Foundation president Victoria Cobb said the Alabama decision was related to the mishandling of “unborn children.”

“Fertility clinics must have an understanding and appropriate safeguards in place because they are handling human life,” she said. As for Youngkin’s stance on the issue, Cobb said she hoped the ruling would start a national conversation that “leads all engaging in IVF to understand that they are creating human life and that all lives created are implanted into their mother’s womb.”

But Jamie Lockhart, leader of Planned Parenthood Virginia, warned any limits on abortion could lead to “forcing individuals into making agonizing decisions about their fertility and future family planning due to political interference.”

She also noted the folks who marched alongside Youngkin would not have done so had they known the Governor’s stance on the issue.

“This disregard for the will of Virginians and the evident contradiction in claiming to support IVF while pushing an anti-abortion agenda underscores a broader assault on reproductive health care,” Lockhart said.

Lockhart also urged lawmakers and Virginians to support a constitutional amendment, put forth this year by Northern Virginia Senator Jennifer Boysko, which would enshrine abortion protections in the commonwealth.

For her part, Boysko was also open to discussing IVF protections in the budget Monday morning.

“I think it’s something considering the decision in Alabama,” she told Radio IQ on her way to the Senate floor. “We need to protect the rights of families getting IVF.”

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