After Alabama frozen embryo ruling, Pritzker has message for IVF seekers: 'Come to Illinois'

Gov. J.B. Pritzker has repeatedly called Illinois a "safe haven" for those seeking abortions.

Now he’s opening the door to those with concerns about in vitro fertilization access and protections — after the Alabama Supreme Court on Feb. 16 ruled that frozen embryos are children, and those who destroy them can be held liable for wrongful death.

"People who live in other states who want to have children using IVF, come to Illinois," Pritzker said at an unrelated news conference in Chicago on Wednesday. "We’re protecting your rights in so many ways, but specifically regarding IVF."

While the Alabama attorney general’s office has said it hasn’t received any guidance on the matter, several IVF clinics in the state have paused treatments over legal concerns in the wake of the court’s unprecedented ruling.

It has prompted yet another national discussion over reproductive freedoms. U.S. Sen. Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill., spearheaded an effort to force Senate Republicans to vote on a measure that would have established a statutory right to access assisted reproductive technologies, including IVF. But as was expected, Republicans on Wednesday evening blocked her legislation.

"It’s a little personal to me when a majority male court suggests that people like me who are not able to have kids without the help of modern medicine should be in jail cells and not taking care of their babies in nurseries," Duckworth said Wednesday at a press conference in Washington. Duckworth used IVF to conceive both of her children.

State Rep. Kelly Cassidy, D-Chicago, who led efforts to protect and abortion access in the state, has also introduced legislation that would give a $500 tax credit to people and health care providers who are fleeing states that limit access to abortion or gender-affirming care. Public school teachers who leave states because of "content-based restrictions" would also be eligible.

"If you’re a patient in any category of reproductive health care or gender-affirming care, and you’re living in a state that’s restricting it, come to Illinois and we’ve got a tax credit for you," Cassidy said. "If you’re a licensed medical provider or a teacher in one of those states that’s doing these things [such as book bans], come on in. The water’s fine."

Cassidy called it a "broad invitation for folks who aren’t able to live freely." But she noted Illinois will need to build up its health care infrastructure to deal with the influx of those fleeing red states.

Illinois already has several in vitro fertilization protections on the books, including a law that requires Illinois-based and group insurance plans to cover diagnoses and treatment of infertility. In 2022, Pritzker signed a law that expanded infertility treatment coverage for same sex couples and women over 35. The law had previously required certain provisions before an insurance covered infertility, including that a couple had to try to conceive for a year.

In 2018, former Gov. Bruce Rauner also signed a law that requires insurance coverage of egg or sperm preservation to patients who receive cancer treatment.

And a law that went into effect on Jan. 1 provides a civil cause of action for fertility fraud against health care providers who knowingly use their own sperm without the patient’s informed consent for treatments such as IVF.

Democrats in Illinois were already working on measures to further expand IVF access before the Alabama ruling, including a trio of bills from Illinois Senate Democrats.

One measure, sponsored by state Sen. Natalie Toro, D-Chicago, would require insurers to cover expenses for standard fertility preservation and follow-up services for any patient — not just those who have been diagnosed with infertility. If passed, Illinois would become the first state to require coverage of egg freezing for any patient.

Another measure, sponsored by state Sen. Cristina Castro, D-Elgin, would expand upon current law and require //put in statute// that covered services include in vitro fertilization and pre-implantation genetic screenings, as well as medicines that improve glucose levels for those diagnosed with pre-diabetes, diabetes or obesity.

A third bill, sponsored by state Sen. Michael Hastings, D-Frankfort, would require that insurance companies provide coverage for fertility treatments recommended by a doctor. Currently, patients have to complete procedures and tests before receiving coverage for in vitro fertilization.