Since its inception, more than five million babies worldwide have been born as a result of IVF. One percent of all US babies in the country are born as a result of IVF each year. My daughter was part of that one percent when she was born after our final (sixth) IVF attempt. Every minute of every day, from the moment we got the call that my wife’s blood levels were unequivocally pregnant, to the sound of that first heartbeat, to the multiple ultrasounds we watched as the tiny two-chamber heart became a four chamber heart, and then a gummy bear looking creature…was about the miracle of life.
That’s why as a former infertility patient and fertility rights advocate it is so frustrating to see the abortion debate intertwined with the family building efforts of infertility treatment.
Family Building Bill for Veterans Becomes a Victim
Several weeks ago, a bill that would have allowed wounded veterans, men and women who survive unimaginable damage from the effects of the proliferation of explosive devices they face on today’s battlefronts, to have their treatment covered by Veterans Affairs was defeated.
As Senate Bill 469 was approaching a vote, last minute amendments were added by another Senator that had nothing to do with providing infertility to services, and everything to do with making a political statement about the recent videos showing fetal tissue sales through Planned Parenthood.
Why this was introduced as part of a pro family building bill like the SB 469 defies logic, but because of the language of the amendments, Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) was forced to pull the bill before it could be voted on.
Family Building Delayed for Wounded Veterans and Their Families
Since 1992, the VA has been banned from offering IVF. Wounded soldiers returning from serving their country have had to find alternative financial resources to build a family at the same time they are still trying to heal, adapt to life outside of combat, and find a way to build a family despite injuries that often make natural conception next to impossible.
Infertility patients hear the gonging of the biological clock as it is. They are used to having to scrimp and save and do everything possible to finance infertility treatments that only get more expensive, and take more time. Injured veterans hear the gonging even louder. And now a simple bill that could have given them a little bit of financial relief by allowing the VA to lift its ban on IVF after more than 20 years will force many to put off family building even longer.
The Blurred Lines of Family Building , Pro-life and Pro-choice
Somehow in the last ten years, the issue of personhood began to blur the lines between family building, and the pro-life and pro-choice debate.
Pro-life supporters often mischaracterize infertility treatment centers as being embryo factories with no controls over how many embryos are created and researched and discarded. Little if any effort is made to explain that none of these embryos has any chance of actually becoming a baby unless the doctors can actually transfer the embryo into a woman’s womb, and then hope that the embryo implants and a successful pregnancy results.
Pro-choice supporters really don’t argue for the rights of family building, as they are primarily focused on protecting a woman’s right to end a pregnancy. This is the polar opposite of the focus of infertility clinics, which is to bring life into this world - using every medical and technological advance known to science.
Infertility advocates, myself included, are used to treatment options being diminished by this kind of political skirmishing. When it comes to the family building efforts of our wounded veterans, I think we have to leave the abortion debate out of the dialogue. Our veterans have already served in skirmishes outside of our country and ultimately paid a price with health issues that they will live with for the rest of their lives. To allow them to have access to IVF coverage so they can start their own families is just the right thing to do.
Hopefully Congress will do the right thing and a new bill will emerge. Until then, the biological clock of these brave service men and women and their families will continue to silently tick away.