Republican Party politicians are vigorously outspoken about their opposition to the existence of Planned Parenthood, a non-profit organization with global reach that funds research on reproductive health and offers a variety of services to women and men of all ages at approximately 700 health centers in the United States. So vigorous is this GOP war on Planned Parenthood that it even extends to our nation’s warriors themselves, the many men and women who have faced the call of duty and now turn to the Veterans Administration (VA) for assisted reproductive technologies (ART) when war wounds cause difficulties starting a family.
Senator Patty Murray (D-Wash) drafted a bill that would allow veterans rendered infertile by combat injuries, their spouses, and surrogates to obtain assisted reproductive technology (ART), including in vitro fertilization (IVF) at VA medical facilities. Before presenting the bill for consideration by the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee on July 22, the proposed bill was undermined by last-minute amendments added by Sen. Thom Tillis (R-NC). These amendments are so restrictive they would literally kill the bill if it had come up for Senate vote.
Explaining the reasoning behind one of his amendments, Tillis questioned the need for funding these reproductive services on the grounds so many other veterans are not getting the services already established for other medical issues. He cited an incident of contaminated water at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina that sickened some military personnel there; only a small number of associated claims have been approved.
Another Tillis amendment prohibits the VA from securing fertility care from Planned Parenthood and other organizations that include abortion as part of their services. Some Planned Parenthood facilities do include abortion in their roster of services but these particular medical procedures are, by law, not funded by the federal government.
Had the bill remained as written by Murray, expanded fertility services would have been available under the Women Veterans and Families Services Act, which provides healthcare to military veterans through Tricare, the healthcare coordinator for the Department of Defense. In addition to lifting a ban on IVF at VA medical centers, the bill would have made it possible for military men and women to get ART services for infertility caused by combat injuries.
“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 . . . and turn their backs on wounded veterans,” said Murray on July 22.
In a statement issued by the Paralyzed Veterans of America, Tillis’s amendments are described as “histrionic political grandstanding.” The statement further reads:
“As a result of the recent conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq, many young service members have suffered grievous injuries from explosive devices that have made them unable to conceive a child naturally. If this country is to uphold its moral obligation to make whole those men and women who have been sent into harm’s way and returned broken, then it is time for this legislation to be enacted."
Tillis claims his amendments were not written: “to kill in vitro fertilization.”