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Kaine, Warner urge coverage of IVF treatment for federal workers

U.S. Sens. Tim Kaine and Mark Warner, both Virginia Democrats, joined lawmakers from the House and Senate to urge the Office of Personnel Management to require all health insurance carriers in the Federal Employee Health Benefits Program to cover in-vitro fertilization treatments and medications.

If the agency were to take up the request, this would affect federal employees, many of whom live in Northern Virginia.

In noting the treatment’s popularity for families struggling with fertility issues, the lawmakers wrote that coverage would “sharpen the Federal Government’s competitive advantage in competing for talented workers, as surveys demonstrate that employees experiencing infertility without adequate IVF coverage will express dissatisfaction with their employer and seek new professional opportunities.”

The effort is the latest in state or federal actions to protect or bolster IVF access after Alabama’s state Supreme Court ruled that embryos are people — a ruling that called the future of the procedure into question nationally.

handful of states nationally have some sort of mandate for IVF coverage and Kaine said he’d like to see Virginia do the same.

“Even though the first IVF child in the United States was born in Virginia — in Norfolk in 1981, Elizabeth Carr — Virginia is not one of the states that mandates IVF coverage,” he said in a Zoom call on Tuesday.

Kaine noted that he and Warner have also sent a letter to the Department of Veterans Affairs arguing that “within the (Department of Defense) space, IVF should be covered.”

“We also generally support insurance companies covering IVF as part of the standard benefit package,” Kaine said.

In a recent call with the Richmond Times-Dispatch, Carr stressed the various reasons families may pursue IVF treatments.

“It’s not just infertility,” Carr said. “There are implications for if you need a surrogate, if you are a same-sex couple, if you want to screen for a genetic disease. Or, if you are going through cancer treatment and want to preserve your eggs so that after you’re done and you want to conceive, you can use IVF.”

Shortly following the Alabama ruling this past February, Sen. Mamie Locke, D-Hampton said Democrats’ plan to pass a state constitutional amendment to protect abortion access could include protections for IVF treatments. Passing a state constitutional amendment in Virginia requires a multiyear process.

Democratic lawmakers will introduce a resolution next year that would need to pass the General Assembly in two different years with a House of Delegates election in between before it could go to voters in a statewide referendum as early as 2026. From there, voters across Virginia would decide whether or not those protections should be enshrined in the state’s constitution.

Though constitutional amendments do not require a governor’s approval, a spokesperson for Gov. Glenn Youngkin said that he will “always protect” IVF.

At the federal level, Kaine is among several lawmakers hoping to pass the Reproductive Freedom For All Act, which has bipartisan support in its patrons, and the Access To Family Building Act. Last month Kaine took Carr as his guest President Joe Biden’s State of the Union address.

Reproductive rights will continue to feature in elections this year as congressional candidates take stances on protections or restrictions for abortion.

Biden has made abortion access a pillar of his reelection campaign while former President Donald Trump has expressed support for states’ authority over access.