Is Infertility a Public Health Problem?



At least not in most of the United States.

A Little Background

Yesterday, I was listening to the radio and there was (yet!) another interview by a talk show host, who was (yet again!) sucking up to her interviewee on the subject of infertility and medical intervention to correct what is a normal state on the spectrum of infertility, especially in women who for whatever reason of their own choosing, have decided to delay child-bearing.

I was calling in (yet again!), with the hope of asking whether it can be justified  to require  insurance providers to pay for these treatments( in the 14 states that require health insurance to pay for fertility treatments ). For the umpteenth time, I sat on hold, and my question never managed to make it on air.

Many people close to me have availed themselves of assisted fertility. I love these people, I think that their children are wonderful, and they appear to be marvelous parents. I do not wish to jeopardize my relations with these people, but an inability to confront differences on matters of public policy don’t bode well for countries like ours (cf. Mitch McConnell, Collected Works).

I went home and posted my comments on line, in far blunter words than I would have ever used on air or in conversation with a woman who has struggled with this problem.

In any case, here are the comments as they were posted online.

I think that I am done listening to Radio _____. Listen to ______’s self-entitled mewling about how she somehow deserved to have a baby was more than I could take. I wish for once a radio talk-show host would just once bring up the the fact that MA insurance policy holders are paying for these infertility treatment ego trips. Nor do they ever point out the difference between having a baby and raising a child.
Loving a child is the easiest thing in the world to do–thinking that you need to create something with your genetic imprint is egotism in the highest degree. We can all aspire to things–parenthood, musical genius, a job in the NBA. Sometimes biology doesn’t cooperate, and that, as my parents told me, is life. That adoption is seen as a second best choice for these people makes me doubt their motives in parenting.

I am looking forward to your comments.

4 responses to “Is Infertility a Public Health Problem?

  1. My feeling has always been that undergoing fertility treatments instead of adopting a child is like buying a dog or cat from a breeder instead of adopting one from a shelter. Shelling out big bucks for a “purebed” animal or for a mini-me, when there are so many homeless creatures, human and non-human, languishing in shelters and hellish third world orphanages, is, as you put it so well, egotism in the highest degree. The fact that the earth’s resources are already stretched to the limit makes this practice indefensible, and asking taxpayers to foot the bill is outrageous. I would like to see a 5-year global moratorium on human reproduction. Just about every social problem I can think of would be, if not resolved, at least palliated by such a measure.

  2. Richard – Sorry, sweetie, but yours is a much too simplistic way of viewing the biological imperative to bear a child. Approximately 7 million Americans are currently experiencing infertility (1 in 8 couples). The causes of infertility are many (not just ‘advanced maternal age’): structural, Endometriosis, DES, low sperm count, tubal disease, DES exposure, STD’s, stress and who knows what else.
    You say that “loving a child is the easiest thing to do – THINKING that you need to create something in your genetic imprint is egotism in the highest degree…” I would say that I love my child beyond all measure, and, at times, it isn’t easy to love her. Read Winnicott, or, how about “The Monster Within: The Hidden Side of Motherhood” by Barbara Almond. Nevertheless, regardless of the ambivalence many parents feel about their children as they raise them, women AND men dream of being parents from the time they themselves are children. It’s one of the “high dreams”, if you will. We are, as a species, inherently both selfish and compassionate, fearful and capable of tremendous love (was just listening to a great program on Wisconsin NPR about this!). Is it sheer egotism to want a child who has your husband’s nose and musical abilities and generosity, or to hope that your child has your hair color and artistic eye or love of mathematics? Why judge this so very harshly? Carrying and bearing a child is also the high dream of most little girls and one of the supreme joys, as far as I’m concerned, that anyone can possibly experience. It carries with it, great risks (although, thankfully, not like it used to a mere 100 years ago), as does parenting ones own biological child.
    When my husband and I found out that I was “infertile”, I wasn’t particularly surprised. But I was devastated, as was my husband. I read everything I could, I joined a support group, saw a therapist a couple of times who specialized in infertility. I had to dig as deep as I could about what was important to me. I had actually always been open to the idea of adoption whether or not I had “my own” children, but I was also very aware of the stories of friends of my parents who had adopted children; not one of them had escaped unscathed – meaning, there had been serious and heart-breaking issues with each of these families. I knew if we were to adopt we could be inviting any number of “extra” risks that we might not have encountered had we had biological children. It’s my experience that most couples are very, very thoughtful about the issues and options that arise when they are faced with infertility disease.
    Should insurance companies be forced to cover fertility treatment? Should insurance companies be forced to cover impotency? or diabetes? or bipolar disorder? Should they pay for birth control? or substance abuse treatment? Is infertility a public health issue? See;; “Carolina Papers International Health: A Global Perspective on Infertility: An Underecognized Public Health Issue.
    In closing, let’s ponder the idea of whether unmitigated sarcasm (“sarcolepsy”) should be considered a public health liability. I love you, my friend, but I think you are being a poop-head and rather mean-spirited to boot.

  3. Pingback: Is Infertility a Public Health Problem? The Responses | The Assassin Bug

  4. Pingback: New York Times “Making Laws About Making Babies” « mothernatureschmature

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