A bill to require insurance coverage of in vitro fertilization sparked a lengthy debate between senators and an opponent of the bill at a hearing on Monday Feb. 5.

The proposal, Legislative Bill 726, is sponsored by Sen. Justin Wayne of Omaha, who told the Banking, Commerce and Insurance Committee about his friends who were unable to conceive naturally and began considering IVF.

However, the current cost of IVF, when uninsured, is as much as $15,000 per operation. The costs forced his friends to move to another state where insurance for IVF procedures is required by state law, he said.

Wayne suggested his bill would help Nebraska grow by offering more ways for middle and lower income families to conceive.

“Nebraska hit 1 million people in population in 1890,” Wayne said. “Over 100 years later, we still haven’t been able to get to the 2 million mark. We have to figure out ways to help families grow. This is just one way we can solve a problem that plagues people from middle to low income.”

An opponent of the bill, Tom Benzor from the Nebraska Catholic Conference, spoke about his concerns that selective reduction of potential embryos could be considered a direct attack on human life.

“We recognize that some couples face a tragic difficulty with natural conception,” Benzor said, “but we don’t morally agree with discarding potential human life.”

Many couples considering IVF will have multiple embryos transferred in order to increase the odds of even one implanting successfully. However, if a family only wants one child, for example, and two embryos have successfully implanted, the family can choose to have an embryo removed.

This selective reduction is what concerns Benzor.

Benzor’s argument against the bill sparked a philosophical debate among committee members regarding how much protection can be afforded to each and every embryo.

“If every embryo is worthy of state protection, as you [Benzor] are saying,” Sen. Paul Schumacher of Columbus said, “then does every woman have an obligation to carry all of these potential babies?”

Sen. Burke Harr of Omaha argued that nothing prevents selective reduction during natural conception (i.e. an egg being fertilized by one sperm vs. another.)

“By no means do I mean to undermine the care and intention that a family might go through in thinking about the reduction of potential embryos,” Benzor said. “However the process isn’t something we believe should be supported by government policy.”

Other opponents of the bill were concerned about costs to the state as a result of the mandate for insurance providers.

“We have always opposed legislation that will increase premiums set by insurers,” said Mick Mines from the National Associations of Insurance and Financial Advisors-Nebraska. “We believe insurers should be able to set the lowest-cost benefit plans for their receivers.”

Another opponent, John Lindsay from Blue Cross Blue Shield Nebraska, said that non-childbearing Nebraskans shouldn’t have to purchase coverage for procedures such as IVF that are irrelevant to them.

Meg Mikolajczyk, the associate general counsel for Planned Parenthood of the Heartland, was in favor of the bill in general, but testified neutrally because certain language concerned her.

“We’re hopeful there may be some additional changes to the current wording of LB 726 that would expand access beyond heterosexual married couples,” Mikolajczyk said.

The bill’s language implies that only heterosexual couples are viable candidates for receiving IVF coverage.

Wayne said that this exclusion was unintentional and could be revised to address Mikolajczyk’s concern.

The committee took no immediate action on the bill.