Lee and Romney vote against IVF access protections, accuse Democrats of ‘fearmongering’

The Right to IVF Act was blocked by Senate Republicans a week after they stopped a bill to guard access to contraception.

With “family” listed as a top issue on each of their websites, Utah Sens. Mike Lee and Mitt Romney voted Thursday not to advance a Democratic bill to protect access to in vitro fertilization. But not because both Republican lawmakers don’t support use of the family expanding technology, the senators say, but rather because they don’t see it as being at risk.

“Senate Democrats have embraced a Summer of Scare Tactics — a partisan campaign of false fearmongering intended to mislead and confuse the American people. In vitro fertilization is legal and available in every state across our nation,” a joint statement signed by Lee, Romney and all other Republicans in the U.S. Senate said. “We strongly support continued nationwide access to IVF, which has allowed millions of aspiring parents to start and grow their families.”

Even though they signed the statement, two Republicans joined Democrats in voting to hear the Right to IVF Act, and one Republican didn’t vote. To be considered, the bill needed 60 senators to vote “yea.” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer changed his vote to “no” with the aim of eventually reviving the measure.

Senators voted just hours after the U.S. Supreme Court dismissed a case that would have limited access to mifepristone, one of the two drugs used in a medication abortion.

The bill’s failure comes on the tail of Republicans also refusing to consider Democrats’ bill to shield access to contraception. Lee cast a “no” vote and Romney, who is retiring from the Senate at the end of this year, was absent.

(Tom Williams | Pool) From left, Sens. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, John Cornyn, R-Texas, and Mike Lee, R-Utah, attend a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on Texas's abortion law, Wednesday, Sept. 29, 2021, on Capitol Hill in Washington.

Lee has made multiple posts to his X account this week accusing Democrats of “scaring women” by introducing bills to guarantee access to reproductive health care.

Discussing a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on “Abortion Bans and Interstate Travel for Care,” Lee said in a video, “Here’s the thing, there’s not a single state in the union, not one, that restricts a woman’s ability to travel from one state to another to get an abortion or otherwise.”

And while Idaho has attempted to bar adults from transporting minors who aren’t their children across state lines to help them access an abortion, other states have adopted policies that could keep anyone from traveling for an abortion.

In Texas, some localities have prohibited people from passing through them to get an abortion in another state, and state law allows legal action against someone who assisted a pregnant person in seeking an out-of-state abortion, The Texas Tribune reported.

Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall has threatened to prosecute anyone for facilitating an abortion in other states — a threat that a federal judge last month allowed abortion rights groups to challenge.

The concerns around access to contraception and IVF have also stemmed from actions taken in Republican states with abortion restrictions.

The Alabama Supreme Court ruled earlier this year that frozen embryos were considered children. Although it didn’t ban IVF, all of the state’s fertility clinics stopped operating until the Alabama Legislature passed civil and criminal protections.

According to health policy nonprofit KFF, abortion bans have led to confusion about contraception legality in numerous states across the country.

In Utah, abortion is legal up to 18 weeks. But a near total ban sits in front of the stat’s highest court.

Multiple GOP candidates competing to replace Romney expressed support for a national abortion ban in a survey by The Salt Lake Tribune.

In an April interview, Sara Mecham, a spokesperson for the Utah Infertility Resource Center, said families who have sought help to have children reached out to the center in recent months asking if they should be worried about IVF being restricted in Utah.

The center reassured them, Mecham said, pointing out Utah’s laws have never been used to limit the technology — but “that doesn’t mean that it can’t happen here.”

The latest Economist/YouGov poll conducted between June 9 and 11 indicates the vast majority of American voters — 93% — view health care as an important issue. That number rises to 96% among surveyed women. When asked about abortion policy, 75% of polled voters and 82% of participating women said it was important.

When a local anti-abortion group proposed changing the Utah Republican Party’s platform to call for “equal protection laws for preborn children from the moment of fertilization,” and pitched a resolution to “urge the Utah legislature to enact legislation to abolish in vitro fertilization,” party leaders kept both off the agenda for its April convention. They didn’t respond to questions about why.

Speaking with reporters after a primary election debate on Tuesday, Republican Gov. Spencer Cox pledged not to sign legislation that would restrict Utahns’ access to contraceptives or IVF.

“I think families should be able to make those decisions for themselves,” Cox said. “Our job is to protect the sanctity of life, and I think we’ve been able to do that in a very smart, compassionate way with the laws we have on the books.”

He continued, “We should never have an abortion in the state. If we have an abortion, it means something failed, right? And so contraception is a way to stop people from wanting to have abortions, right? There should be no unwanted children.”