As Congress considers legislation on in vitro fertilization, five U.S. senators are asking the Department of Health and Human Services to assess fertility clinic safety standards in an effort to ensure the clinics are adequately protecting the human embryos in their possession.

Republican Sens. Tommy Tuberville of Alabama, Bill Cassidy of Louisiana, James Lankford and Markwayne Mullin of Oklahoma, and Roger Marshall of Kansas wrote a letter to Christi Grimm, the inspector general of HHS. In it, they requested a detailed investigation of the cause of the accidental destruction of embryos at the Center for Reproductive Medicine in Mobile, Alabama, along with other such mishaps at U.S. fertility clinics.

The senators are also demanding details about the federal government’s process of collecting and publishing fertility clinic data so women using IVF can access information, such as pregnancy success rates. That information could enable policymakers to help prevent destruction of embryos like in the Alabama case from happening again.

“Mothers in this situation make a substantial emotional, financial, and personal investment, and rightly expect that fertility clinics will protect and respect human life—and keep treasured embryos safe,” the senators wrote in the letter. 

According to the letter, clinics conducting IVF and other forms of assisted reproductive technology are required under federal law to annually report the effectiveness of their treatments and whether they have “applied for, or received, certification” from the federal government under the law.  

The most recent annual report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention was said to be missing information about whether certified fertility clinics had the appropriate safety criteria for embryos.  

Additionally, the CDC report did not include information about warning letters from the Food and Drug Administration to certified fertility clinics that had “significant deviations” from federal safety requirements in their laboratories.

Of the assisted reproductive technology clinics reporting to the CDC, 39 of 453 were not accredited in 2021, the most recent year for which figures are available, and “33 clinics still in operation did not observe reporting requirements.”

“Women expect transparency with access to accurate pregnancy-success rates and the certification status of the fertility clinics they are considering,” the senators wrote. “It is unclear, however, whether CDC is implementing the law in such a manner as to maximally benefit the mothers it purportedly seeks to empower.”