Here's Why We Need the Right To Build Families Act

The overturning of Roe vs. Wade placed access to assisted reproductive technology use, such as IVF, in jeopardy. Senator Tammy Duckworth tells Parents how the Right to Build Families Act could help and why it is personal to her and so many others.

Senator Tammy Duckworth with newborn daughter
Chip Somodevilla / Staff/Getty Images.

When Roe vs. Wade got overturned by the Supreme Court in the Dobbs vs. Jackson Women's Health Organization decision, it didn't just put abortion rights in the balance for millions of people of reproductive age. It opened the door for potential restrictions on reproductive assistance, notably in-vitro fertilization (IVF).

The IVF process involves harvesting multiple eggs, testing them for genetic abnormalities, fertilizing them, and only storing viable embryos. The rest are discarded. To be clear, the only state to place legal restrictions on IVF has been Louisiana, which does not allow for the disposal of embryos because it considers them people. South Carolina and Alabama exempt IVF from their legislation restricting abortion access.

A group of congresspeople is aiming to ensure every American has access to the procedure responsible for the births of nearly 84,000 live infants in 2019, according to CDC data. U.S. Senators Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) and Patty Murray (D-WA) and U.S. Representative Susan Wild (D-PA-07) introduced the Right to Build Families Act of 2022 in December. If passed, it would protect the right of every American to access IVF and other assisted reproductive technology (ART).

"With Roe v. Wade thrown out by the Supreme Court, many women and families are understandably worried about their access to healthcare and their ability to do their own family planning. Right now, we’re seeing within the anti-choice community a plot to push for new, more radical policies like the so-called “personhood bills” that would go even further toward controlling [people's] bodies. These efforts could effectively ban fertility treatments like IVF that many Americans need to start or grow their families," Senator Duckworth tells Parents.

For Duckworth, the bill is personal, "Without the miracle of IVF, I wouldn’t have my two beautiful girls, and there are so many other families like mine in every corner of our country who might never have been able to start a family if it weren’t for access to assisted reproductive technology (ART).

Infertility doesn’t discriminate, and how someone chooses to build their family should be a decision between them and their doctor—not right-wing politicians. If the far-right really cared about fostering life, they wouldn’t try to stop women like me from creating it. It’s that simple."

More than 1 in 4 heterosexual women (26%) have trouble getting pregnant or carrying a pregnancy to term, according to the CDC. For them, IVF is a way to have biological children. This data does not specifically include the LGBTQIA+ community, who also relies on IVF but are often under reported.

A 2021 Gallup poll reported that about 18 million Americans identify as LGBTQIA+, with 25% of Millennials (9.1) and Gen Z (15.9) identifying as queer and many looking at ways to start a family.

The Right to Build Families Act of 2022 would include the following:

  1. A ban on preventing access to ART or an individual's right to retain reproductive genetic materials like gametes (sex cells, or eggs and sperm).
  2. Protections for healthcare providers who provide patients with access to ART and counseling and information on it.
  3. The creation of a private right of action for people and healthcare providers living and working in states that have placed limits on access to ART.
  4. Permission for the Department of Justice to pursue civil action against states in violation of the act.

"This is a truly commonsense bill, and I hope my colleagues will join us to protect Americans' right to build a family on their own terms," said Sen. Murray in a press release.

Rep. Wild concurred, saying the bill would ensure "that all Americans can access the reproductive technologies they need to start the family of their dreams, and that health care providers are confident in their ability to provide such care."

Groups That Support the Right to Build Families Act

  • American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG)
  • American Humanist Association
  • American Society for Reproductive Medicine
  • Center for Reproductive Rights
  • National Council of Jewish Women
  • The National Infertility Association

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