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Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Mother Jones, you saucy wench!

During our weekly trek to the organic supermarket (doesn’t that sound so left wing? Organic supermarket? Just wait, it gets better…), I ended up with a copy of Mother Jones in my basket. I am not normally a reader of Mother Jones—even as a liberal I don’t like agreeing points-of-view spoon-fed to me. But this month’s issue promised “Icebox Orphans & Fertility Gods: the hot war over frozen embryos / who’s going to thaw out 500,000 ‘microscopic Americans’ / love, politics, and the perils of high-tech baby-making.” It had the accompanying visual of plastic babies encased in an ice cube tray. Do you honestly think I’m going to be able to pay for my organic yogurt without picking up an issue? Mother Jones is banking on the 1 in 7 Americans experiencing infertility.

I’ve only read one of the articles so far—“Breeder Reaction” by Elizabeth Weil, which chronicles the lawsuit brought by a lesbian couple against a fertility clinic that refused to serve them as well as addressing the larger questions of regulations, insurance, and big government. The couple had been trying for two years to become pregnant using donor sperm. When they weren’t successful, they turned to an RE who refused to serve them because she said it was against her religious beliefs. The couple ultimately sought the help of another clinic and successfully had two pregnancies. But the question remains whether fertility doctors are the best judges of who is “fit” to become a parent.

The statistics are staggering. Only 59% of fertility clinic directors agreed that everyone should have the right to have a child. Who do the other 41% believe are not fit for parenthood? Strangely, “44% believe that fertility doctors don’t have the right to decide who is a fit parent.” Shouldn’t that number be closer to 59%?

The article raised interesting questions, many of which I couldn’t comfortably answer with rational words though I knew how strongly I felt about these topics with my heart. Should infertility be diagnosed as a “medical problem?” Would it save money in the long run if government regulated fertility treatments but also forced insurance to pay for the procedures? The article covered concepts such as fertility tourism and the RE as a businessperson.

In the end, the question I kept returning to was the idea of regulations. We all know that it can be a slippery slope when government gets involved in deciding things as intimate as reproduction. But what if there were simple regulations in place—mandatory single embryo transfer is the one mentioned in the article as a regulation in place in other countries—in exchange for mandatory coverage? What regulations would you be willing to live with? What about age cut-offs? What about marriage? In reality, the article points out, these regulations exist today—they aren’t dictated by the government, but are instead the policies of fertility clinics. Therefore, one fertility clinic may be willing to help you and another is not.

So the question of the day: would you be willing to accept government regulations on fertility treatments in exchange for coverage and what are your limits with government regulations?

The answers will obviously reflect to some extent your own situation. Why would I put regulations in place that limit my own procreation? But…then…I ask our government, why would you put those limits (that you don’t want on yourself) on someone else? Don’t we still have a Golden Rule in place somewhere? A little tarnished? Can’t we polish it up? And not to be a buzz kill, but Mother Jones states in the same issue that “mining the gold to make one 1/3-ounce 18-karat ring produces at least 20 tons of waste” therefore, we may want to recreate the Golden Rule in a different metal.

Back to Mother Jones and their next article about frozen embryos. What a way to spend my afternoon…


Anonymous Infertile said...

I know that the government having any sort of say on what we can and cannot do with our bodies is probably dangerous. But, my husband and I do not currently have IF coverage which means that IVF is probably out of the question for us. If the gov't being involved would give us more options by having some mandatory coverage I would be all for it.


Anonymous said...

I am from New Zealand, and here we have a system of 'points' , if you get 65 you get two free IVF's (or one if the first is successful).
The points system is kept under wraps and unless you are working in the area of if, would be hard to work out.
Basically though, once you are over 40 you won't be elligable, likewise if you smoke, as chances are reduced,
Other factors include, any children living with you, ovulation history, endo tubal factors sperm count ect..most people have to also have tried for 3 years if infertility is due to a diganosed problem, or 5 years if it is unexplaned.

It's an ok system, but not as good as other countires, I believe.

The waiting lists once elligable are 6-12 months, and if you are under 35years you may only have one transfered at a time.

Piccinigirl said...

I think I could live with the gov't being involved, if it meant that I could have a shot at some more expensive treatments. I think that as with everything there will be corruption, undermining, bias. Yet I can't help thinking that if we could get the gov't to admit that wanting and not being able to have a child is a disease and derseves a real attempt at a "cure" that it is worthwhile.

aah0424 said...

I don't think my answer is a yes or a no. I'm not a big fan of the government being more involved in our lives or having more say in our personal situations, but if it would help most of us I would be for it. When I first read the question I thought absolutey if it benefits me and the millions dealing with IF. Sadly, I don't think it would work that way.

It scares me that if the government got involved they would pick and choose according to their own agenda. For example, this is a bill (I think it passed?) in Virginia

Basically, if the link doesn't work, it says it is unlawful for any clinics in the state to intervene medically on an unmarried woman to achieve conception. So if you are a lesbian or a widow wanting to us your deceased husbands frozen sperm--your SOL in Va. Since Va is pretty conservative it is sort of a no brainer they would do something like this, but I think with regulations that would help so many of us it may end up hurting others. Or, they may say we'll help you but you HAVE TO AGREE to do XYZ with your frozen embryos.

I'm sorry if I'm rambling on. I guess I'm just saying I don't have a cut and dry answer to this question because it would all depend on what the regulations were in exchange for.

Sophia said...

i think i would like to see rational regulation which this govt is incapable of like setting a standard for sperm bank pricing (125$ to deliver to an office 20 blocks away from the bank!)and lifting the ban on gay male sperm donors