No, these are not winning lottery numbers. They are also not numbers to a safe combination leading back to an inconspicuous brief case layered with stacks of 100 dollar bills. These numbers have a bigger and much richer purpose. Last year, I was one of 154 advocates representing RESOLVE, the National Infertility Awareness Association, on behalf of about 5.5 million in the United States that suffer with the disease of infertility. We all came to our capital city for one sole purpose which was to share our stories and seek sponsorship on specific bills related to family building. Some of the advocates were fertility experts and doctors, but the majority were just like me. Someone who has stared infertility directly in the eyes wondering why this is not recognized as a disease. Most of us are personally affected by infertility and the enormous inequity in access to treatment, insurance and tax reprieve. Like you and me, because we have struggled through many procedures, surgeries and injections, signed stacks of adoption forms, and others with child free (not by choice) lifestyles. Of those 154 advocates, 27 states were represented last year.
Every Spring, RESOLVE coordinates a rally cry for advocates to meet with Congress, to share their personal journeys and ask their local representatives and state senators to co-sponsor specific bills. The desire to have a family is a basic life function, yet only 15 states mandate some coverage, and only 8 of those states actually have coverage for assisted reproduction or family building options. RESOLVE coordinates training sessions and tediously sets each individuals appointment so that our stories can be shared with our local congressmen. 160 appointments were scheduled with congressmen and lawmakers alike, imploring change, and we delivered 2300 letters for those who could not be there directly to their district representatives.
We discuss the issues with our local congressman and their staff, and ask for co-sponsorship on specific family building bills. This year, one of the bills we will be asking for congressional support is: Women Veterans & Other Health Care Improvements Act (S 131 /HR 958)
Here is the cliff notes version of it: Alright, you are a service member who is deployed for a year, separated from your spouse and your loved ones. Your life and your family building dreams are put on hold. Tragically, you are wounded and those subsequent injuries cause infertility as a result. Thank you for your service to this country Mr./Mrs. war veteran, but sorry, you will have to pay for the majority of your family building costs out of pocket. Tri-care will cover a variety of elective surgeries but will not provide substantial assistance to a wounded vet that did not have a choice. They deserve a chance of a family. Again, the desire to have a child is a life function. Anyone else getting angry about this? I digress. This bill will improve the reproductive assistance provided by the Department of Veterans Affairs to severely wounded, ill, or injured veterans and their spouses. It will also require the VA to provide adoption assistance and child care to those wounded veterans and spouses. Benefits for active duty military and veterans do not include coverage for ART infertility treatments, such as in vitro fertilization and costs associated with surrogacy—this law will change that significantly.
I heard a quote that really stuck with me last year, “A silent disease will yield silent results” – Whitney Anderson. I could not agree more. Advocacy Day is our time to make noise, and incite change. It turns out folks, one person can actually make a difference; but when you put many together, rallying for the same cause, you can move mountains. Here is your proof, last year we had 154 advocates, 27 states represented, 160 appointments with congressmen and 2300 letters hand delivered, all pleading for change. This year we are asking for more. Advocacy is not about RESOLVE and it is not about me. It is about all of us as a collective who struggle to afford treatment and to have equal access to family building options. So if you ever have those fleeting thoughts about how you wish someone could make change in the world so that others will not bear the burden of the past generation, well here is your chance. Carpe diem!
To learn more about Advocacy Day and how you can help, visit www.resolve.org.