Sen. Tim Kaine and woman who was the nation’s first IVF-born baby help lead charge for fertility treatment access

After the Alabama Supreme Court ruled that embryos created via in vitro fertilization can be classified as children, Elizabeth Carr — the first U.S. baby born this way — set out to reveal the potential consequences of this decision.

At a gathering in Ballston today (Friday) — surrounded by advocates, doctors and those who conceived or were conceived via IVF — Carr underscored the existential threat the ruling could pose.

“IVF babies of my generation, I’ve noticed, are now having their own IVF journeys,” she said. “And so, for this segment of the population, you literally are telling us the way that we came into the world is not going to be how you’re going to be able to bring your own child into the world.”

The roundtable, hosted by Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.), addressed threats to IVF treatment and pathways to protecting this procedure. While some participants expressed concerns these treatments could be limited, like abortion, Kaine expressed optimism that Congress could pass legislation this year protecting access to IVF.

He said there is bipartisan interest in a standalone bill with broad protections for IVF as well as specific protections for military families in the defense bill.

“I think the kinds of discussions we’re having, the attention, and the momentum on the issue give us a real shot,” Kaine said.

Couples who cannot conceive naturally, particularly same-sex couples, already face an uphill battle to growing their families, said Jay Timmons, CEO of the National Association of Manufacturers, who used IVF and surrogacy to have children with his partner.

“[Adoption] was pretty difficult for same sex couples,” said Timmons, a McLean resident. “We walked into it fairly naively and went through all the home checks and everything until the very wonderful social worker said, ‘Okay, I’m gonna put [Jay] down as the adopter, and I’m gonna put Rick down as your roommate.”

“And so we kind of processed that and said, ‘We’re not going to bring a child into our family under the pretence of a lie.'”

Kaine says Democrats are actively seeking support from Republican senators for the Access to Family Building Act, which he co-sponsored, guaranteeing access to IVF. Although Republicans blocked a vote on the bill last week, Kaine remains optimistic that it could surpass the 60-vote Senate threshold required for the bill’s passage.

“I wouldn’t want to pass this out of committee on an 11 to 10 vote,” he said. “I would want to pass it out on a real bipartisan vote, and I think we could do that.”

Should the comprehensive IVF bill stall, Kaine says Democrats could at least build protections for military families into the upcoming defense bill, potentially setting a precedent for future legislation.

“President [Harry] Truman, when he integrated the military in the 1940s, it set an example that then influenced the rest of society,” Kaine said. “If we do something in the defense bill for troops, their families, and veterans, I think it’ll send a powerful message that could then move us down the road toward broader protection.”

Last week, the Alabama state legislature approved a bill that shields IVF providers from civil lawsuits and criminal charges related to the destruction of damaged embryos. In Virginia, Republican lawmakers and Gov. Glenn Youngkin, who has advocated for limiting abortion access, have expressed support for safeguarding access to IVF treatments.

Kaine said people will not be fully protected unless Congress intervenes.

“I’m very concerned, and that’s why we need to do the federal bill because Alabama saying, ‘Okay, we will not criminally prosecute you,’ is not the same as saying, ‘We embrace IVF,’ and so it leaves a lot of gray areas,” he said.

“State legislatures could change every two years,” Kain continued. “State legislators are not doctors or scientists. They write bills that are vague, that make providers worry… Let’s just make it clear: that if you want to build your family through IVF, you can.”