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Four Freedom Caucus members object to Veterans Affairs IVF funding plan

March 22, 2024 Catholic News Agency 1
Rep. Matt Rosendale, R-Montana, speaks at a press conference on the debt limit and the Freedom Caucus’s plan for spending reduction at the U.S. Capitol on March 28, 2023, in Washington, D.C. / Credit: Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Mar 22, 2024 / 14:00 pm (CNA).

Four congressmen in the conservative House Freedom Caucus voiced “strong objections” to a Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) plan to expand its coverage of in vitro fertilization (IVF) to unmarried veterans, including those in same-sex relationships.

Under the previous rules, the VA only covered IVF treatments for married couples who produce their own eggs and sperm for the fertility treatment. The new policy will allow donor eggs and sperm and cover treatments for unmarried people who require such donations to create an embryo.

The lawmakers, led by Rep. Matt Rosendale, R-Montana, expressed their dissent in a letter to VA Secretary Denis McDonough on March 20. He was joined by Caucus Chairman Bob Good, R-Virginia; Rep. Mary Miller, R-Illinois; and Rep. Josh Brecheen, R-Oklahoma. 

“An IVF embryo is the earliest stage of life that exists outside of the womb,” Rosendale said in a statement accompanying the letter.

“Through this expansion, a surplus of embryos will be created, which are likely to result in abandoned or cruelly discarded human life,” Rosendale said. “Accompanying that, legislation has been introduced previously to expand IVF at the VA, meaning the legality of this decision is questionable at best.”

IVF is a fertility treatment in which doctors extract eggs from the woman and fertilize the eggs with sperm to create human embryos in a laboratory without a sexual act. Clinics create a surplus of embryos to maximize the likelihood that the mother can bring one healthy baby to term — the remaining embryos are often discarded, which ends a human life, or frozen indefinitely. 

The letter from the lawmakers notes that expanding IVF “creates a plethora of ethical concerns and questions” and calls the treatment “morally dubious.” Because most human embryos are either destroyed or abandoned, the signatories conclude it “should not be subsidized by the American taxpayer.”

Rosendale and his three colleagues also requested information from the VA pertaining to what the department does with surplus embryos, how many are destroyed or frozen, how much the IVF expansion and embryo storage will cost taxpayers, and what specific law grants them the authority to take this action.

Rather than expanding IVF, the lawmakers suggested the VA provide reimbursements for adoption efforts instead. 

“There are around 400,000 children in foster care nationwide, and approximately 117,000 are waiting to be adopted,” the letter adds. “The VA also provides fertility and infertility care to help veterans who struggle with infertility. It would make more sense to use the funds that the expansion of IVF will cost to bolster adoption efforts at the VA.”

Under its current policies, the VA can provide up to $2,000 for adoption expenses, but only if the veteran has a service-connected disability that causes infertility. The law does not allow coverage for surrogacy. 

Access to IVF became a major political issue after the Alabama Supreme Court ruled that frozen embryos created through IVF are covered under the state’s “Wrongful Death of a Minor Act.” After several clinics stopped providing IVF, Republicans and Democrats in the state quickly passed legislation to grant clinics immunity in the deaths of human embryos, which was signed by Gov. Kay Ivey, who claims to be pro-life.

A large number of Republicans, including lawmakers who are outspoken on other pro-life issues, distanced themselves from the ruling and embraced IVF despite the destruction to human life that is integral to the industry. Few have spoken out against the process. 

The Catholic Church opposes IVF because it separates the marriage act from procreation and destroys embryonic human life. Acknowledging the advances in science available today to those seeking help having children, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops warns Catholics on its website of the ethical issues involved.

“The many techniques now used to overcome infertility also have profound moral implications, and couples should be aware of these before making decisions about their use,” the guidance reads.