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An ethically untenable bill looms before us

The pain of infertility doesn’t justify government mandates for IVF treatments

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An ethically untenable bill looms before us
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Last Friday, I obtained a leaked draft of a bipartisan Senate bill mandating health insurers to provide in vitro fertilization (IVF) treatments. I broke the story at the National Review. The bill, still in draft form, is set to be introduced by Sen. Roger Marshall, R., Kan., and Sen. Cory Booker, D., N.J.

The bill necessitates that any health insurer offering group policies provide treatments for infertility, if that plan offers obstetric care. These treatments would include egg and embryo freezing, IVF procedures, genetic testing, intrauterine insemination, and more.

The bill lists several criteria that beneficiaries would need to meet to receive treatments for infertility. One such criteria would be a disease requiring a treatment that threatens future fertility, such as cancer and associated radiation or chemotherapy. Someone would also be eligible for treatment coverage after failure to become pregnant after twelve months of unprotected sex.

However, the bill further states that beneficiaries “incapable of reproduction to live birth based on medical and reproductive history, age, physical findings or diagnostic testing of the individual, as determined by a treating physician,” would be eligible for infertility treatments.

These criteria have critical implications. A person’s “medical and reproductive history” could include a transgender or gay person. The bill does not give guidance on how to further interpret “physical findings” or “age.” There is no restriction in the bill against a single or elderly person using such treatments. One need not be part of a couple to be eligible. The bill also has a lack of gender specificity: It does not include the word “woman” or “man” even once.

Another section of the bill would provide coverage for “egg and embryo donation.” It’s unclear whether the coverage would provide financial support for procedures where women donate eggs, or if the coverage would extend to those hoping to “purchase” donated eggs or embryos. Could a single, elderly man cite “age” as an infertility factor and be able to purchase donated eggs for placement with a gestational surrogate? The bill never mentions surrogacy, but appears to cover all financial logistics of the medical side of surrogacy. Beneficiaries may still be responsible for finding their own gestational surrogates, but all costs would appear to be covered under this bill.

Aside from the lack of specificity in the bill that could make nearly anyone eligible for coverage, constituents should expect the rise of health insurance premiums, should the bill be introduced and passed.

David began as an embryo that would be marked for destruction under IVF protocols.

The bill touches on one of the current flashpoints of the pro-life movement: assisted reproductive technologies. After the recent Alabama Supreme Court ruling that awarded embryos fetal personhood, some may be rightly wondering how IVF fits with a pro-life ethic.

Some Protestant Christians with a proud, pro-life worldview struggle to see ethical issues with IVF and other assisted reproductive technologies. Can Christians participate in a system that separates the biological material of men and women from their bodies for exchange on the marketplace and destroys unwanted embryos as medical waste, or freezes them indefinitely?

For Christians, conception in a lab is not enough. The proper order for the genesis of human life is the marital union. A child deserves the justice of the procreative act.

The pain of infertility can seem more than one can bear. I have deep compassion for those touched by this age-old curse. While I have living children, I recently suffered two consecutive miscarriages, one that resulted in a still-birth. One of my children was born with a rare set of birth defects classified as fatal fetal abnormalities. He does not walk, talk, or eat on his own. He is blind, and severely mentally disabled. David began as an embryo that would be marked for destruction under IVF protocols.

My path to motherhood has been marked by great pain. This is not what I would have chosen for myself. In this, I find solidarity with women suffering due to their great desire for God’s most precious gift: life. But in our quest to receive this blessing, one can confuse seeking the gift for seeking the Giver.

Our desires shape and form us. Our practices teach us about ourselves, and about our Creator. The right order of the sexual act culminating in the birth of children, contained in the marital union, prepares us for the Kingdom of God.

Life in the Kingdom of God may mean giving up something good, like the dream for biological children, when it would require ethical decisions that orthodox Christian teaching, drawn from Scripture, would find untenable.

Those of us who have children are to share them with the Church, and therefore the world. In the family of God, the childless have full arms. Our children are God’s, and how we conceive them matters.

Rachel Roth Aldhizer

Rachel Roth Aldhizer lives and writes in North Carolina, where she is an unlikely disability advocate and mom to four kids, one of whom is profoundly disabled. Her work on disability policy and a theology of suffering has appeared in numerous publications, including Public Discourse, Plough, and The American Conservative.

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