To Address Infertility, It’s Time To Give Real Reproductive Health Options 

Published June 13, 2024


Senate Democrats have made ensuring access to in vitro fertilization (IVF) a top priority. But the current legislative attempts to “protect” IVF are pointless. The procedure is already widely available in the United States; indeed, no state or federal entity is attempting to ban it.

These Democratic lawmakers want to lure Republicans—and the public at large—into bad-faith arguments over IVF. In doing so, they treat couples struggling with infertility as pawns to score political wins. Lawmakers should instead be empowering people with more options to diagnose and treat their reproductive health conditions, including the conditions that cause infertility.

This is where Sens. Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-Miss.) and James Lankford (R-Okla.) come in. On Thursday, the senators introduced the Reproductive Empowerment and Support through Optimal Restoration (RESTORE) Act. This bill takes a proactive, pro-family, and pro-woman approach to addressing reproductive health conditions and infertility through restorative reproductive medicine.

Since IVF is already widely available, the RESTORE Act expands access to more treatment options for couples struggling with infertility. Such treatments are not anti-IVF; rather, they offer couples more ways to get at the heart of the problem.

The RESTORE Act takes a two-part approach toward this goal. First, it expands existing grant eligibility to current and future medical professionals to ensure that they have access to resources, training, and information to diagnose and treat reproductive health conditions and infertility. Such grants already exist under Title X and the Office of Population Affairs, but doctors who practice restorative reproductive medicine are often left out.

Second, the RESTORE Act directs the Department of Health and Human Services, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Health to implement ongoing reports and survey data collection about the effectiveness of, access to, and use of restorative reproductive medicine to treat reproductive health conditions and infertility.

The medical approaches described in the Act are often cheaper than alternatives, and they also improve a woman’s ability to conceive children naturally. Indeed, for the millions of women and men who have struggled with infertility, this Act is a step in the right direction to ensure they receive the care that they need.

Restorative reproductive medicine works to identify the underlying causes and conditions that may contribute to menstrual pain and infertility. These conditions can include endometriosis, adenomyosis, polycystic ovary syndrome, uterine fibroids, blocked fallopian tubes, hormone imbalances, hyperprolactinemia, thyroid conditions, and ovulation dysfunctions.

Endometriosis is an especially painful condition and in many cases a primary contributor to infertility. It affects at least 10 percent of the reproductive-age female population, and yet it takes, on average, 11 years to receive a diagnosis. With 190 million women suffering globally from this disease, the lack of research on this condition is dismal. Even though scientists still do not know the cause of endometriosis, as of 2022, only $2 per woman with the disease was allocated for endometriosis research every year.

Researchers estimate that a couple struggling with infertility faces, on average, four or more underlying reproductive health conditions, including male-partner infertility. This means doctors and patients need to understand how to treat each of the conditions involved. Unfortunately, diagnosis, treatment, and funding for research are no better for other reproductive health conditions than they are for endometriosis.

Women should not spend years in pain struggling with “unexplained infertility” when restorative treatments could alleviate their pain and remove barriers to successfully conceiving and carrying children. Such methods may also increase a couple’s success rates if they decide to still use IVF, too.

Women and men who may struggle with infertility deserve the highest standard of medical care, and this begins by offering them treatments to proactively assess and treat their reproductive health conditions before they are ready to have children. This is clearly more helpful than any political statement about IVF, which is already widely available.

If lawmakers want to help couples struggling with infertility have the children that they desire, the RESTORE Act is the first step in the right direction.

Natalie Dodson is a Policy Analyst at the Ethics and Public Policy Center, where she works on a range of initiatives focusing on sexuality, gender ideology, religious liberty, health care rights of conscience, abortion, and nondiscrimination in EPPC’s HHS Accountability Project.

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