Some of my readers and followers will have noticed I am on a new mission here lately _ one that involves championing the needs of families as usual, but from a slightly different perspective. Lately I am tweeting with the hashtag #Ohip4ivf because I have joined forces with a group called Conceivable Dreams. Conceivable Dreams is an advocacy based grassroots organization that started with the passion of two parents bent on educating public and government about the needs of parents in waiting, parents seeking to become families through the help of a process known as in vitro fertilization. I typically write here about adoption, a lot, because my two girls are adopted and I help to run my own non profit for adoptive parents called the Canadian Coalition of Adoptive Families. But before we adopted there was obviously a choice involved. Before we adopted we went through a period of time where we investigated all the options. We knew we would try fertility medicine and treatment for a brief time. I had surgery to clear blocked tubes. And I had scarring, largely due to the Crohn’s Disease, an inflammatory bowel disease that is incurable. I tried the medicine called Clomid and we continued to try the usual way. (Wink ;.)I knew fairly early on that my medical history wouldn’t be compatible with pregnancy. I am a trained journalist so I research and ask questions when I don’t know the answers and I learned that infertility treatments were costly and the odds seemed slim for me. Then I researched adoption and while it also had clear obstacles, it was our informed choice. My heart knew my body could not manage a five year battle of several rounds of surgery and IVF. At that time, I had multiple medical issues, a disease that clearly also impacted fertility. Medical issues on top of medical issues. Had IVF been a viable option for us, then I would have fought tooth and nail for assisted reproduction help. Had I chosen to proceed with IVF, then it should have been supported morally, emotionally and financially by my workplace, my insurance company and the public health care system. None of those systems were supportive at that time and even now, as I have learned from interviewing people going through the process and parents who conceived through IVF.
We chose adoption.
The hurdles, even there were huge. Adoption internationally is extremely expensive – ranging upto $20,000. Domestic adoption can be speedy, or it can take years. It typically carries very few costs up front, but in reality upwards to 85 % of children adopted from children’s aid societies have special needs. (I am the world’s biggest champion of domestic adoption, but I am also a realist. The support systems needed to parent a child with special needs are incredible. The resources needed, both financially and emotionally, are great. While I wish everyone could adopt and would adopt and I hate that 10,000 children are in care of children’s aid societies in Ontario, it is not the right choice for every couple.)
About four years ago, the non profit that I cofounded was asked to get in on advising and consulting the Expert Panel on Infertility. At that time we had many conversations with some of our partners in the United States. They typically went like this…what does infertility have to do with us? Aren’t we on opposite sides of the fence? We want to get children out of foster care and into homes. Why should the government fund IVF?
At that time, almost four years ago a smart lady whose opinion I value very much, Kim Stevens, who has held various positions at NACAC, the North American Coalition for Adoptable Children, helped us to see we needed to be at the same table. The Expert Panel was eventually the Expert Panel on Infertility and Adoption and I am happy to say we had a great deal of input into that final report, Raising Expectations, released three years ago now. We had many conversations and engaged a lot of partners and eventually the Ontario Liberal government enacted several of the adoption recommendations.
Many recommendations also came out of the infertility portion of that panel. Infertility affects one in six couples and In-vitro fertilization costs about $10,000 a cycle including medications. It is one of the most effective treatments for providing couples the option to safely create a family. One of the recommendations in the Expert Panel report was that the government fund in-vitro fertilization. “Ontario Cannot Afford Not to Fund Assisted Reproduction.” The expert panel, which included Governor General David Johnston, recommended that funding be in place for three cycles of in-vitro, single embryo transfer. The cost savings are clear. Right now, families who are desperate to conceive and cannot risk spending to do multiple rounds of IVF are having multiple embryos transferred. This can lead to higher incidents of multiples, and has been shown to often incur higher health care costs in the long-term for both the mother and the babies. One single embryo transfer is a recommendation that supports building healthy families in Ontario.
In Quebec, two years ago, the government recognized the high cost of multiples. While twins and triplets are adorable, they can also carry additional health risks. They are 17 times more likely to be born pre-term, to require a caesarian delivery and to need expensive care at birth, as well as throughout their lives. Pregnant moms of multiples also face additional health risks. This year, Quebec’s rate of multiple births is projected to drop by 80 %. The Expert Panel stated that the province of Ontario could save between $400 – $550 million over the next ten years and would see another $300 – $460 million in savings that would have been spent on these children over their lifetimes.
In the last couple of weeks I have met and interviewed families who started their lives together with $50,000 of debt. Just to start a family. While every one of them said their child was worth it, that’s one hell of a burden for any family. Oh, and did I mention that these families come from all socioeconomic walks of life.