RELEASE: Gottheimer Announces New Legislation to Protect IVF & Stop Far-Right Extremist War on Women’s Healthcare

Feb 28, 2024
Press

Works to stop government shutdown and protect key investments in community healthcare centers, law enforcement, seniors, WIC 

Above: Gottheimer with doctors at the new Valley Hospital.

PARAMUS, NJ — Today, February 28, 2024, alongside IVF and women health experts, U.S. Congressman Josh Gottheimer announced new legislation — the Securing Access to Fertility Everywhere Act or SAFE Act — to protect access to in vitro fertilization (IVF) treatments in New Jersey and across the nation. This follows the Alabama Supreme Court ruling that frozen embryos are children, forcing IVF providers across Alabama to shut their doors.

Gottheimer also called on the Speaker of the House to stand up to the band of the ultra-right in his own party and prevent a government shutdown. A government shutdown would affect everyone from veterans looking for a job or mental health care when they come home, to our seniors who depend on Meals on Wheels, to vulnerable families who use community health centers, to children who rely on school breakfast and lunch, WIC, and Head Start. It will imperil local law enforcement and our national security, halting key defense and military projects.

Video of the announcement can be found here.

Gottheimer Announcements Today to Protect Women’s Access to Healthcare:

  • First, Gottheimer announced new legislation, the Securing Access to Fertility Everywhere Act, or SAFE Act, which will protect a family’s access to IVF treatments and protect IVF providers.
    • This new law will shield doctors, nurses, and hospitals prescribing IVF from being held liable for state wrongful death claims in processing and transporting embryonic cells.
  • Second, Gottheimer is helping lead in the House the bicameral “Access to Family Building Act,” which will establish a right for women to access reproductive medical care, including IVF, and for health providers to provide these services. This bill is coming for a vote this week in the Senate.  
  • Third, Gottheimer will continue fighting to codify Roe v. Wade into law. In the House, Gottheimer cosponsored and voted for the “Women’s Health Protection Act,” which the House passed two years ago.
    • Gottheimer is also working to pass his Freedom to Decide Act, which reiterates that access to Mifepristone does not violate federal law, and that the abortion pill should be able to be prescribed and shipped to states that have outlawed reproductive freedom, even in cases of rape, incest, and the health of the mother.

“What Alabama is doing, what many states are doing – what extremists in Congress, unfortunately, are doing – is conducting a war on women’s healthcare, and a war on women’s reproductive freedom,” said Congressman Josh Gottheimer (NJ-5). “Even after Dobbs, I never imagined that states, with support of the courts, would attempt to ban IVF – a medical procedure that allows hundreds of thousands of moms and dads to have a baby, and build a family, every year in our great country. Today, with new legislation in Congress, we are making one thing clear to them: not so fast. We will protect reproductive freedom. We will protect IVF. We will protect moms and dads and modern medicine and health care.” 

“IVF is one of those modern miracles that have given couples with fertility issues or going through cancer treatment a shot at having babies and creating their families. Two of my grandchildren are such miracles,” said Bergen County Commissioner Vice Chairwoman Mary Amoroso. “But families in Alabama are now talking about shipping frozen embryos out of state to avoid government intervention or they worry about the government accusing them of neglect or abandonment if the embryos have been stored a long time and the government decides to seize those embryos. This is crazy. This is science-fiction, not government of the people, by the people, for the people. Congressman Josh Gottheimer I thank you and salute you for stepping up to ensure the rights of ordinary people to grow their families without fear of government. 

“While this decision is the first of its kind, unfortunately it’s unlikely to be the last. And other states may soon follow suit. Because of that, our patients have voiced concern that if similar laws are passed in our state of New Jersey, they will lose control over the fate of their frozen embryos. And just as importantly, there are individuals and couples who are thinking of using IVF to start a family but will now have to put that dream on hold because of the potential consequence of that law,” said Valley Hospital Medical Director of Reproductive Endocrinology/Infertility Dr. Nasseri. “That is why it’s so important to support Congressman Gottheimer and his efforts to pass legislation at the federal level to protect the respective rights of women and all individuals so they have the freedom to choose their own path to parenthood.”

“Healthcare is a human right and women are being treated unequal in their healthcare needs. We are seeing increasing maternity care deserts and at this time, the government teases us with shutting down funding for our basic healthcare needs. Women’s health is not an option, it is a basic primary need,” said Valley Hospital Chair of Women Services Dr. Tia Welsh. “The right of a woman to make decisions about their own body and reproductive functions is at the core of her basic rights to equality, privacy, and bodily integrity. A woman should have the right to access to sexual reproductive healthcare without discrimination, without fear of criminal recourse, and with privacy.”

Gottheimer was joined by Bergen County Commissioner Vice Chairwoman Mary Amoroso, President of Valley Health System Dr. Robert Brenner, Valley Hospital Medical Director of Reproductive Endocrinology/Infertility Dr. Ali Nasseri, and Valley Hospital Chair of Women Services Dr. Tia Welsh.

Below: Gottheimer with doctors at the new Valley Hospital.

Gottheimer’s remarks as prepared for delivery:

Good morning. I want to thank you for being here today, with doctors and nurses from Valley Hospital, to stand up to extremists and their seemingly endless attempts to get between a woman, her doctor, and her faith. We are here to reiterate the importance of protecting a woman’s right to choose; to stand up against the far right’s attacks on women’s health; and, to stand up for a family’s right to access IVF treatments. We must stand up to this war on women’s health care and reproductive freedom. 

Even after Dobbs, I never imagined that states, with support of the courts, would attempt to ban IVF – a medical procedure that allows hundreds of thousands of moms and dads to have a baby, and build a family, every year in our great country. Today, with new legislation in Congress, we are making one thing clear to them: not so fast. We will protect reproductive freedom. We will protect IVF. We will protect moms and dads and modern medicine and health care. 

Speaking of extremists, before I begin, I’d like to address the looming potential government shutdown this Friday night. If the Speaker of the House doesn’t do the right thing, and stand up to the band of the ultra-right in his own Party, in just two days, our government will begin to shut down. In nine days, on March 8, it will be completely shut down. That means these extremists will force key federal programs to run dry.

For Jersey families, it will affect everyone from veterans looking for a job or mental health care when they come home, to our seniors who depend on Meals on Wheels, to vulnerable families who use community health care centers, to children who rely on school breakfast and lunch, WIC, and Head Start. It will imperil local law enforcement and our national security, halting key defense and military projects. It would be a disaster and it’s no way to run a country, and I encourage the Speaker to, at the very least, work with the President and congressional leaders to pass a short-term package this week and stop a shutdown. 

Common sense must prevail over fringe extremism. We need to move forward in our great country, not backwards.  

Last month marked the 51st anniversary of the Supreme Court’s landmark Roe v. Wade decision — a decision that protected a woman’s freedom to choose. Two years ago, as we all know, in Dobbs, the Court upended Roe, turned back the clock on progress, and ripped away the rights of millions across the country to make personal and private medical decisions, including in cases of rape, incest, and when the life of the mother is at risk.

A grandmother today had more rights in 1973 than her daughter does today. The result has been devasting for women across our country — including for a ten-year-old girl from Ohio who was raped but couldn’t get an abortion in the state she lives.  

We are watching in real-time the widespread consequences of those who have declared a war on choice, a war on women’s healthcare, and a war on personal privacy. Just yesterday, in Texas, a judge agreed with the extreme-right Texas Attorney General to strike down protections for pregnant women in the workplace. Really? In 2024? Give me a break. Fourteen states have full bans on abortion, not including states like Georgia, which has a ban at about six weeks of pregnancy before many women even know they are pregnant. And, nearly all of these bans are without exceptions for rape or incest.  

Since then, we’ve heard horror story after horror story of women and young girls being unable to access the health care they need. Just this past December, in Texas, a woman whose fetus had a fatal diagnosis that put her health at risk was forced to leave the state to receive the medical care she needed. And, in Oklahoma, a woman whose pregnancy put her life in danger had to wait in the parking lot, until, as the hospital told her, she was “crashing” or her blood pressure was so high that she was about “to have a heart attack.”

And, as I mentioned, just last week, affirming a law that Alabama’s extreme-right legislature enacted, the Alabama Supreme Court ruled that frozen embryos created by in vitro fertilization or IVF are children. This extreme ruling lays the groundwork for other states to threaten access to IVF for families across our nation. 

The shocking 8-1 ruling found that IVF providers could be held liable for the death of a person if embryonic cells were accidentally destroyed. Immediately, we saw IVF providers across Alabama shut their doors. But, the effects haven’t just stopped in that state. A major embryo shipping company, Cryoport, announced it was “pausing” its business in Alabama. Now, wrongful death lawsuits in other states could lead to rulings similar to Alabama’s Supreme Court.

Just a few months ago, 125 members of Congress introduced the “Life at Conception Act,” which not only creates a national ban on abortion ban, but creates a new “personhood status” after fertilization. So, not only would women be restricted from making decisions about their body and health at any time, this law attempts to block those seeking to get pregnant using IVF across the nation, including here in New Jersey. This essentially codifies the Alabama Supreme Court ruling into federal law — trumping any statewide efforts to protect IVF treatment.

We know that many women are unable to get pregnant without the use of IVF. In fact, IVF helps more than 300,000 women a year who desperately want to be a mother achieve that dream. Since its inception, at least eight million babies have been given life from IVF treatment and help families who are simply having trouble becoming pregnant, or are a same-sex couple who want to start a family. Now, military families like the Eshelman’s, who have used IVF in the past to conceive their now 2-year-old daughter and are potentially being redeployed to Alabama, may be unable to grow their family.

Why would we rob families of this opportunity just because some extremists in Congress or in a robe think they know what’s best?  In the minds of these extremists, if an embryo doesn’t survive implantation, it would be considered an illegal abortion. This is a safe and effective way for families to have children and is often a saving grace for women trying to become pregnant. 

I know these have been dark times for our families, but I’m confident that by standing together, working together, and speaking out together, both here and in the halls of Congress, we can bring hope and light back to a dark moment in our history. In New Jersey, I’m proud that our state legislators and Governor have taken action to protect a woman’s right to choose, her privacy, and access to IVF.  But, that won’t protect women in Alabama and it won’t help us if the US Congress decides to impose their extremist will on Jersey.  

That’s why, today, I’m here with medical professionals to announce new legislation I’m introducing in Congress to protect against new threats to IVF.

First, in the coming days, I’ll be introducing my “Securing Access to Fertility Everywhere Act,” or SAFE Act, which will protect a family’s access to IVF treatments and protect IVF providers. This new law will shield doctors, nurses, and hospitals prescribing IVF from liability and state wrongful death claims in using and transporting embryonic cells. 

The legislation is not a get-out-of-jail-free card for IVF providers or employees who are grossly negligent. But it ensures that IVF providers have the basic protections they need to help families in Jersey and across our nation.

For millions of families, IVF is the only option to have a baby. It’s just common sense that protects their access to this treatment.

Second, I’m proud to help lead in the House the bicameral “Access to Family Building Act,” which will establish a right for women to access reproductive medical care, including IVF, and for health providers to provide these services. 

This bill was introduced in the Senate by Senator Tammy Duckworth, who is bringing this bill to the Senate floor for a vote today. 

Third, we must codify Roe v. Wade into law. In the House, I proudly cosponsored and voted for the “Women’s Health Protection Act,” which the House passed two years ago. A group of extremists blocked the bill in the Senate and it failed.  But, we can’t give up until this legislation is signed into law.

I’m also working to pass my legislation, the Freedom to Decide Act, which reiterates that access to Mifepristone does not violate federal law, and that the abortion pill should be able to be prescribed and shipped to states that have outlawed reproductive freedom, even in cases of rape, incest, and the health of the mother. 

Here in Jersey, we protect — and will continue to protect — a woman’s right to choose. All women have a fundamental right to make personal, private healthcare decisions about their own bodies, lives, and futures. No one should get between a woman, her doctor, and her faith. It’s times like these that we are reminded just how much our voices and actions matter. 

This is just common sense, and what most Americans believe is right. We can’t allow extremism to win. We must fight to defend reproductive freedom.  Thank you and God bless our great country.

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