Former first lady of Canada, Maureen McTeer recently stood in a private Women of Influence Award gathering and reminded the audience that in vitro fertilization (IVF), and assisted reproductive technologies are a modern day reality and should be funded in Ontario as a health care treatment. IVF is a medical treatment that is sometimes prescribed as the only way a couple can conceive a child.
An estimated one in six Canadian couples struggle with infertility. Infertility is, often a byproduct of other health conditions. Sometimes it’s cancer that leaves a couple infertile, sometimes polycystic ovarian syndrome, or a disease like Crohn’s. And yet, only one province, Quebec funds IVF. IVF is a health care reality for many couples, who, in Ontario are still forced to take out second mortgages, cash in investments and struggle for years with debt. McTeer argued it’s high time that IVF was funded through OHIP, the Ontario Health Insurance Plan.
Maureen McTeer, advocate, author, feminist and famous Canadian reminded a crowd of women it’s been 23 years since she was named to Canada’s Royal Commission on New Reproductive Technologies. The wife to Prime Minister Joe Clark, first spouse of a Prime Minister ever to retain her own last name, was named to the commission founded by then Prime Minister Brian Mulroney. The year was 1989. It was a ground-breaking commission. The field of assisted human reproduction was very new. A Brave scientific frontier. Surrogates. Egg donors. IVF.
Here we are 25 years after the first so called test tube baby was born, Louise Brown, born to British Mom Lesley Brown, who was infertile due to blocked Fallopian tubes. Many IVF babies have been born since then around the world. IVF is no longer scientific breakthrough as much as an accepted means of forming a family in a culture where one in six couples of reproductive age suffer from infertility.
In the past six months I have met many couples who have gone through IVF, some successfully forming their families in this way. Karma Brown wrote an amazing story recently Having a Child May Be Priceless, Infertility Is Not about her journey through cancer and the fertility treatment that gave her a daughter. Heather Oliver Hamilton has also shared her incredible story with us. Several Moms and Dads have been writing and telling their stories for Conceivable Dreams, the advocacy group that I help manage social media for. But so many families are still waiting for help.
Fertility Ontario Medical Director John McNaught has used a donation of $300 from a Sarnia woman who died shortly after giving birth to start Laura’s Wish, which will help as many as three couples a year to be able to afford IVF. McNaught, of London, stated the number one barrier to IVF and infertility treatment is always financial. McNaught criticizes the Ontario Health Insurance Plan which covers the infertility treatment of IVF only when a woman has been diagnosed with two block Fallopian tubes. “It’s like saying you can’t have surgery for a broken leg because you broke it skiing, but if you broke it out walking then that’s covered.”
The Expert Panel on Infertility and Adoption recommended that IVF be covered several years ago. They endorsed single embryo transfer upto three rounds of treatment. The panel determined this was the right human choice and the right economic choice. Why? Because families right now, try to maximize their chances of conception by transferring multiple embryos. The practice can jeopardize maternal and child’s health. It also leads often to multiple births. And although twins and triplets and adorable, they have higher degree of medical issues throughout their lifetime. Single embryo transfer – upto three rounds – done with public funding is the only choice that makes sense if we care at all about building healthy families in Ontario.
I am a member of the Conceivable Dreams Blog Team. My opinion is my own