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With Alabama IVF patient in attendance, Biden highlights reproductive care in State of the Union

Latorya Beasley, 37, has long had the first week of March marked on her calendar. But it wasn't to attend the State of the Union with a seat next to first lady Jill Biden.

After months of medication cycles, she was gearing up for an embryo transfer on March 4. But the Alabama Supreme Court's decision on Feb. 16, which determined that frozen embryos were children and threw clinics there into intense legal uncertainty, upended the course of her treatment.

So, on Thursday night, she instead found herself watching the president address the nation from the U.S. Capitol, using his speech to highlight her story, as well as the stories of other women who've lost access to reproductive healthcare in the nearly two years since Roe v. Wade was overruled, while criticizing Republicans for supporting abortion restrictions.

PHOTO: Maria Shriver, Kate Cox and Latorya Beasley (R) of Alabama sit in the House chamber before President Joe Biden delivers his State of the Union address in Washington, Mar. 7, 2024. (Michael Reynolds/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock)
PHOTO: Maria Shriver, Kate Cox and Latorya Beasley (R) of Alabama sit in the House chamber before President Joe Biden delivers his State of the Union address in Washington, Mar. 7, 2024. (Michael Reynolds/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock)

"Joining us tonight is Latorya Beasley, a social worker from Birmingham, Alabama," Biden said.

"She was told her dream would have to wait. What she went through should never have happened. Unless Congress acts, it could happen again. So tonight, let's stand up for families like hers," Biden said.

PHOTO: Tory Beasley speaks during a panel discussion with families directly affected by the Alabama Supreme Court decision hosted by Secretary of U.S. Health and Human Services, Xavier Becerra, on Feb. 27, 2024, in Birmingham, Ala. (Butch Dill/AP)
PHOTO: Tory Beasley speaks during a panel discussion with families directly affected by the Alabama Supreme Court decision hosted by Secretary of U.S. Health and Human Services, Xavier Becerra, on Feb. 27, 2024, in Birmingham, Ala. (Butch Dill/AP)

Beasley, a Birmingham resident, has been doing fertility treatments on and off since 2019. In 2022, she successfully had a daughter through IVF, and last fall, Beasley and her husband decided to try for one more child.

They were nearly at the final stage of the process when the court ruling came down.

"I got a phone call and I don't even know what she said," Beasley said, describing the phone call from her provider, Alabama Fertility Treatments, advising her that her appointment was indefinitely delayed because they were pausing services, fearful of wrongful death lawsuits that could arise from handling embryos.

"Of course I was heartbroken. And then a few minutes later, the FedEx man rang the doorbell delivering [IVF] medicine. It was just like a gut punch," Beasley said.

PHOTO: President Joe Biden speaks as Vice President Kamala Harris, left, and Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy, right, listen during a State of the Union address at the Capitol, Feb. 7, 2023. (Kent Nishimura/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)
PHOTO: President Joe Biden speaks as Vice President Kamala Harris, left, and Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy, right, listen during a State of the Union address at the Capitol, Feb. 7, 2023. (Kent Nishimura/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)

For the next two weeks, Beasley shared her story with lawmakers in her state Legislature and at the federal level, including a roundtable with Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra, who traveled to Birmingham for a listening tour with IVF patients.

She made trips to Montgomery, the state capital, to rally with hundreds of other women pressuring lawmakers for legislation.

As legislation began to move through the State House, each political development carried medical implications for Beasley.

"It's just one of those things that kind of is like, how does someone else get to dictate what I want for my family?" she said in an interview. "How does someone have so much control?"

Beasley and the other women and families who advocated at the State House were ultimately successful as of late Wednesday night, when state lawmakers passed a bill to give IVF clinics, patients and manufacturers "civil and criminal immunity" during IVF services, allowing enough legal cover for most of the paused clinics to reopen.

Beasley's own clinic, Alabama Fertility Specialists, said it resumed the "full scope" of fertility services on Thursday.

Unfortunately for Beasley, though, the delay caused her to miss her window of opportunity. Lab work and an ultrasound on Wednesday revealed that she would have to wait until her next cycle window to try again, she said. Still, Beasley said she was happy for the other women going through IVF at her clinic who would now have a chance at pregnancy this month.

"We have kept our lab fully operational so that we'd be positioned to resume care as soon as possible," Dr. Janet Bouknight, a fertility physician at Alabama Fertility Specialists, said in an interview Wednesday.

But Bouknight, lawmakers and other patients involved in the legislative process all acknowledged that there will be more work ahead to protect IVF -- something Biden is sure to highlight in his speech on Thursday.

PHOTO: Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra greets LaTorya Beasley during a roundtable discussion with in-vitro fertilization patients and health professionals, on Feb. 27, 2024, in Birmingham, Alabama. (Elijah Nouvelage/Getty Images)
PHOTO: Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra greets LaTorya Beasley during a roundtable discussion with in-vitro fertilization patients and health professionals, on Feb. 27, 2024, in Birmingham, Alabama. (Elijah Nouvelage/Getty Images)

Biden, since the Alabama ruling came down three weeks ago, has criticized Republicans for laying the groundwork for reproductive health care restrictions by overturning the constitutional right to abortion nationwide.

"My predecessor came to office determined to see Roe v. Wade overturned. He's the reason it was overturned, and he brags about it. Look at the chaos that has resulted," Biden said in his address. "My God, what freedom else would you take away?"

He called on Congress to pass a bill that would legalize abortion services nationwide, as he has for nearly two years since Roe vs. Wade was overturned, and called Republicans out for blocking a vote that would've implemented national protections for IVF.

"To my friends across the aisle, don't keep this waiting any longer. Guarantee the right to IVF! Guarantee it nationwide," Biden said.

Biden also took the moment to capitalize on the confusion and outcry caused by the IVF pause in Alabama, which pushed Republicans both in the state and at the federal level to try and walk a fine line of defending the anti-abortion ruling, while also issuing support for IVF and family building.

"If you, the American people, send me a Congress that supports the right to choose, I promise you I will restore Roe v. Wade as the law of the land again," he said.

With Alabama IVF patient in attendance, Biden highlights reproductive care in State of the Union originally appeared on abcnews.go.com