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Wednesday, September 06, 2006

I Just Found Our Audience

I am so angry right now that I need to write about this before I go to bed or I'll never go to sleep. I just wrote this scathing response to some comments about infertility that were on a parenting board. And I didn't send it. Because even though I eloquently compared them to Hitler (at the same time being kind and explaining Darwin's survival of the fittest to a bunch of women who were essentially turning Darwin into a eugenicist) and felt better doing so, saying the words did nothing. I needed to know that they would hear them. And be affected by them. And I've had enough of these experiences by now to know that I'm not going to change their minds. Their minds won't be changed unless they find themselves one day with their back on an exam table and a catheter snaking through their hoo-haa.

The original question was innocent enough: The British Fertility Society is recommending that women classified as morbidly obese not be allowed access to fertility treatment. Would you support a similar proposal in the United States?

Can you talk about strange coincidence? My third time reading about obesity and infertility in two days?

I actually started reading the responses, believing I would see a mix. And there were a few people who spoke without offense either in support of coverage for all or coverage for none. But the majority of answers became more and more Hitlerish in nature with each comment. Yes, let's take away coverage for obese women!

"It's unhealthy for the woman and for the baby if the mother is that overweight, and I'm sure there is some correlation between being obese and failure rates with IVF and I'm sure they don't want to do it if they know there are more risks and high failure probablility due to the weight."

"I feel for those women who would have to resort to IVF, as I never thought I would have my son, but there is no reason to go through it if the incidence if success is so very low, and they must have done studies on it or they wouldn't have decided it."

"I'm a mother of three and I weigh 208 and I got to say that I don't really blame them. If I was told that my weight was a problem with successfully getting pregnant that way I would do what every I could to lose the weight plus I would rather be told no in the first place then spend all that money and get my hopes up to have it all go crashing down around me. Your emotions also play a role in it and if you get all depressed about it not working the first time then it makes any other chances of it happening all the much less likely."

"I don't think it is a discrimination issue, there are so many health concerns for a person of that size, let alone to have them take all the meds necessary for IVF, and then to carry a baby on top of it. I think it is more about the "first do no harm" part of they oath then discrimination."

"I don't think they're saying that obese women can't or shouldn't have babies -- just that they're not going to pay for in vitro fertilization because of the health risks and the lower percentage of success. There are limited funds available for medical procedures and so I think putting some conditions on when they'll make payments make sense. They're not discriminating because of weight, they're basing the decision on the health risks associated with being overweight. And when dealing with medical conditions you need to consider the health risks involved. I know it must be heart-breaking to not be able to conceive on your own, but it is not a life or death situation."

"Not necessarily how I feel, just playing Devil's Advocate a bit here ... If natural selection is best, then couldn't an argument be made that IVF interferes with natural selection? Which would open up the floor to a whole 'nother debate!"

Followed by...

"Good point! I don't want to open that can of worms right now, but I do agree with this statement."

Which is where I stopped reading and started writing. And started deleting. Because what could I say that would change their minds? They'll never understand unless they go through it themselves. Or have someone close to them go through it. And I want to be the type of person who just snorts and walks away from it, but it literally is still bothering me. And I don't even know these women--they're all faceless women living in America, raising their 2.5 children. And they don't matter. Except they do matter. Because you're commenting on me. And my right to parent. And whether I should be weeded out of the gene pool. And you have hit on my biggest fear--that I passed my own tendency to not produce progesterone or create good eggs to my daughter. Because I never want her to go through what I went through. And...I'm banking all of my hope on technology. That all of these problems with fertility will be solved or even more fine-tuned by the time she is of child-bearing age.

So there you have it.

And because I truly believe that you should have a bit more common sense to pass judgment on others. You never know where life will drop you years from now. How could I have predicted infertility until it happened? And how do I know that I won't be classified as obese (and I have a whole problem with the classification of obesity since it is a ratio and not an actual commentary on the health of the person--yet it is considered a commentary on the health of the person) and wish I hadn't withheld rights from my future self?

So that's what is keeping me from sleeping tonight. Just in case you wanted a touch of insomnia as well. Sorry if I ruined anyone else's night.


Not a Cookie Cutter said...

People are so quick to point fingers and give answers such as "maybe that's the way it should be" and make statements such as "some people can't even have one child", a big surprise when they find themselves in a similar lot. I too have low progesterone, and it is really depressing.

Shazz said...

Funily enough the sam topic has come up in Australia too about banning women for using ivf if they are obese. So when do they tell obese women who can get pg naturally that they have to stop too!!!

Bea said...

I know what you mean about not posting. There's so many bigots and so little time. It's wearying.

As to the obesity issue - I think it is, very clearly, discrimination - but only of the kind that goes on an on in a medical system badly badly in need of a revamp. It's no more discriminatory than denying couples IVF because they live in the wrong postcode. The whole system is just wrong. Don't get me started. And in case you were wondering, no - this isn't started.

I guess I just can't get up any passion about the obesity/IVF issue specifically because the whole NHS system is so FUBAR'd it's hard to pick this ONE issue out of the stream of crappiness.

And IVF and eugenics? Well, gosh. There are an awful lot of bad genes getting passed down by people who can still breed... despite their predisposition for cancer/heart disease/mental illness/need I go on? What's so much worse about infertility genes that they need to be weeded out whilst these remain?

And who says all our problems are genetic anyway - and not eg MF due to a post-pubescent illness such as mumps or chicken pox? So because someone's husband got chicken pox at 16 instead of 6, both partners' genes should be thrown in the dustbin?

Phew... this was long. But it's easy to get the energy up when I know I'm preaching to the converted.


Meg said...

Mel - come on, at least tell me where so I can go flame them myself!!

~r said...

Can you imagine how different the responses would be if you asked if the government should deny the right to procreate (naturally) based on weight?

Leaving out the IVF issue would make for a whole different discussion.

So many people treat assisted reproduction like a major privilege, and 'natural' reproduction like a right.

The Town Criers said...

If you google this topic, it comes up on many message boards. This message came from the Times Online (London)--

I do not agree that IVF should be refused to anyone. To want a child of your own and be unable to have that child is a terrible thing - anyone who is in that situation would agree. Perhaps you would all feel differently if you were directly affected by this instead of your wallets.

I really love that last sentence. I think it's so true.

Zee said...

Hear, hear ~r! You hit it right on the head!

And I've heard that "natural selection" rubbish many times before, and the ignorance and complacency of it makes me mad enough to spit.

In that person's post, just substitute "using antibiotics" or "correcting congenital birth defects" for "IVF" and let her try it on for size. If she's going to argue for natural selection, she needs to take it all the way. (And next time her precious "natural" angel gets strep or bronchitis, and the doctor offers an antibiotic, I assume she's going to turn it down. I mean, if her child can't make it without medical intervention, who is she to interfere with the natural process of weeding out the physically weak and inferior?)

Do I sound like an angry bitch right now? I feel like one.

Kathryn said...

Ugh ... Reading those posts makes me want to cry and scream all at the same time. According to these women, my husband and I are not fit to be parents as evidenced by the fact that nature has rendered me infertile to ensure that my inferior genes don't get passed on, yet I can sit and watch the 6:00 news on any given day and see plenty of overly fertile couples pass on their genes and then abandon/abuse/neglect their numerous offspring??? These are obviously women who have never bothered to bear the burden of an IF friend/relative...and I'm convinced that there are enough of us around that everyone knows someone who has had trouble conceiving (even if they're silent about it for fear of being told that nature has not approved them as a fit parent).

Lisa P. said...

I first read this this morning and wanted to cry... I was almost too embarassed to post. I am, unfortunately, in the category of women who are considered "morbidly obese" by the BMI chart, however, I eat healthy and am trying to get in better shape. I wear an 18/20 most days, so I don't feel morbidly obese even if the charts categorize me that way. We are still on Plan A (combining today's post with this one!) but to think that someone would feel that way about me if we were pursuing A.R.T. makes me feel horrible... and ashamed... and sad, all at the same time. I wish that people could learn to get over their prejudices about ANY "designated" group of people, but I feel that it will unfortunately never happen.

Anonymous said...

This is a difficult one. I come from New Zealand where our Government funds two cycles for people who meet a se of criteria or 'points'. (only one cycle if you have a live baby from your first free cycle).
One of the criteria is a BMI of under 32, normal range being 20-25. Also ecluded are people with BMI under 20.
The stats in NZ clearly demonstrate a higher link between being very overweight and stillbirth/miscarriage/IVF failure.
I guess this restriction is bought about from the clinics having to be accountable to Government for the money spent on public treatment, so they want high success rates so government will see it as money well spent and continue to fund treatment.

I find I feel mixed about it, I feel that losing weight would be acheivable for most and generally a good thing to do for your own health and that of your baby. But, many overweight women conceive naturally so where do you stand on this? it is hard.

If you are overweight and can pay for treatment, the clinics would do it though!

Dee said...

This whole subject just pisses me off. And really, I don't think it's the IF they are talking about "weeding out" of the gene pool, it's the fat people. We're one of the few groups that it's still socially acceptable to pick on. Being big, slow easy targets and all...