News Law and Policy

Murray Seeks Quick Passage of Bill to End Veterans Administration Ban on Support for In-Vitro Fertilization

Jodi Jacobson

Today, Senator Patty Murray, Chair of the Senate Veterans Affairs’ Committee, will ask the Senate to pass by unanimous consent a bill to end a ban by the Veterans Administration on support for in-vitro fertilization (IVF).

Today, Senator Patty Murray, Chair of the Senate Veterans Affairs’ Committee, will ask the Senate to pass by unanimous consent a bill to end a ban by the Veterans Administration on support for in-vitro fertilization (IVF). The bill, the Women Veterans and Other Health Care Improvement Act of 2012, is intended to dramatically improve VA services for women veterans and veterans with families, in part by helping severely wounded veterans build their families. Current regulations expressly exclude IVF from fertility services provided by the VA to veterans or their spouses.

A fact sheet on the bill states: “After a decade at war, many women servicemembers are still at risk for reproductive and urinary tract issues due to deployment conditions and a lack of predeployment women’s health information, compounded by privacy and safety concerns.”

According to Pentagon data cited by Murray’s office, nearly 2,000 veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have suffered pelvic fractures and genitourinary injuries since 2003, injuries that could affect their abilities to reproduce. “In particular, the reliance on foot patrols in Afghanistan and the use of improvised explosive devices has left servicemembers far more susceptible to these injuries,” Murray’s office said in a press release.

Veterans who have severe reproductive and urinary tract injuries and spinal cord injuries (SCI) often need highly specialized treatments and procedures like IVF to conceive, and Murray points to the VA ban as a significant barrier for veterans with SCI and genital and urinary tract injuries, leading them to seek care outside the VA, and requiring them to incur tens of thousands of dollars in medical costs. 

Like This Story?

Your $10 tax-deductible contribution helps support our research, reporting, and analysis.

Donate Now

Murray’s office notes that the Department of Defense currently provides access to IVF services and coverage for IVF and other fertility treatments at no charge to severely combat wounded service members.

“The Department of Defense and the Tricare program are already able to provide fertility treatment to servicemembers with these injuries,” says the backgrounder on the bill. “The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) offers fertility treatments but these services don’t always meet the complex needs of severely injured veterans. Little is known about the impact that these issues and injuries have on the long-term health care needs of veterans.”

Murray’s bill may be seen as one more practical response to the changing approaches required to meet the needs of service personnell and veterans as more women enter the military, including efforts to ensure that contraceptive supplies (including emergency contraception) are easily available on base, to pro-actively address sexual violence in the military, to ensure female service members have the same access to safe abortion care as other federal government employees, or to ensure that female veterans and their families can build their families, even when faced with catastrophic injuries.

News Politics

GOP Crusade Against Planned Parenthood Stalls Bill Helping Wounded Veterans

Emily Crockett

Republican attacks on Planned Parenthood have stalled a bill that would have helped wounded and paralyzed veterans get access to fertility treatments.

See more of our coverage on the misleading Center for Medical Progress videos here.

Republican attacks on Planned Parenthood have stalled a bill that would have helped wounded and paralyzed veterans get access to fertility treatments.

Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA)’s Women Veterans and Families Health Services Act of 2015 would have repealed a long-standing ban on fertility services for veterans at VA hospitals. It would provide treatment and counseling to service members and their partner, spouse, or gestational surrogate without regard to sex or marital status. Many young Iraq and Afghanistan veterans are paralyzed or have grievous injuries to their reproductive organs and cannot have biological children without medical help.

But Murray pulled her own bill, which she had expected to pass, after anti-choice Sen. Thom Tillis (R-NC) attached amendments to it attacking Planned Parenthood.

Like This Story?

Your $10 tax-deductible contribution helps support our research, reporting, and analysis.

Donate Now

“I am so disappointed—and truly angry that Republicans on the Veterans Affairs Committee decided yesterday to leap at the opportunity to pander to their base, to poison the well with the political cable news battle of the day, and turn their backs on wounded veterans,” Murray said Wednesday on the Senate floor.

“We knew Republicans would overplay their hand and wouldn’t be able to resist pandering to their Tea Party base, but even we didn’t think they would go so far so fast,” said a Democratic aide.

One of the amendments would prevent the VA from working with organizations “that take human aborted babies’ organs and sell them,” a clear reference to misleading videos released by the anti-choice front group Center for Medical Progress (CMP).

Contrary to CMP’s claims, their videos do not show Planned Parenthood representatives agreeing to sell “baby parts” for a profit. Planned Parenthood maintains a legal program that, with patients’ consent, donates fetal tissue for the purpose of medical research.

Providers are legally entitled to reimbursement for costs associated with the donation, and the Planned Parenthood employees specifically deny any intention to sell tissue for a profit in portions of the videos that were edited out by CMP.

Murray said that after it became clear there was no path to getting the amendments withdrawn, she asked that the bill be pulled “rather than see it become a vehicle for partisan political attacks.”

“I know some Republicans are trying to use this latest issue as just one more opportunity to roll back the clock and take away women’s health-care options,” Murray said. “We can have that fight—we’ve had it many times before—but don’t pull veterans into the middle of it.”

statement from Paralyzed Veterans of America lambasted the GOP move as “histrionic political grandstanding,” pointing out that many young veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan have suffered “grievous injuries from explosive devices that have made them unable to conceive a child naturally.”

“If a member of Congress wants to debate the moral issues they believe supersede the need to do the right thing for these men and women who have sacrificed so much, we suggest that they meet these men and women face-to-face and explain to them why they cannot support this legislation,” the statement said.

Republicans recently stalled a breast cancer bill over concerns that it might accidentally fund Planned Parenthood, and have repeatedly derailed other unrelated legislation this year in attempts to restrict funding for abortion care. They have also proposed completely eliminating the Title X low-income family planning program, which funds contraceptive and health services at Planned Parenthood that aren’t related to abortion.