Jan 23, 2020
Risa A Levine is an attorney in private practice in New York City. She serves on the Board of Directors of RESOLVE: The National Infertility Association and advocates on behalf of fertility patients on the state and federal level.
You're 29. You eat organic eggs and salads (mostly), but love your French fries. You're a runner, but you take a yoga class "for the stretching and breathing" once every few weeks. You try to keep up with annual medical checkups. But still, you don't feel quite right.
After finally getting an appointment with your doctor (and not having to cancel it because of another work emergency), you discover that something funny in your breast is actually cancer - it’s really happening. Your physician refers you to a specialist who congratulates you on early discovery, but nevertheless recommends chemotherapy. And then, pursuant to current medical standards, advises you to freeze your eggs first, because chemo renders them non-viable. Oh, and by the way, freezing eggs costs at least $10,000 and isn't covered by your insurance.
You burst into tears.
That story plays out in oncologists' offices across the country every day. Women, who were able to maintain stoicism while hearing what one assumes is the scariest of diagnoses - breast cancer, find themselves utterly destroyed when they learn that their diagnoses may cost them the chance to become a mom, excluding them from the one thing that women are supposed to be able to do: give birth.
That has to be changed.
Legislation introduced in the New York State Assembly and Senate would reverse that horror story for cancer patients: The Fair Access to Fertility Treatment Act would amend existing laws to provide insurance coverage for in vitro fertilization (“IVF”), including that part of the IVF process that allows for egg retrieval and cryopreservation of eggs prior to cancer treatment. IVF, the medically preferred treatment for many cases of infertility, is the ONLY way for female cancer patients to preserve their fertility options by retrieving eggs prior to treatment, freezing them, and then completing the process of fertilization and uterine transfer when the patient is ready for pregnancy, after cancer treatment is completed.
Similar legislation for preservation of fertility has already been enacted in Connecticut and Rhode Island, and is the goal for cancer activists across the country. Treating cancer means treating all of the implications of the disease. We have the means to ensure that women don’t forfeit their chance at parenthood to save their lives from the ravages of cancer treatment. Women deserve access to the treatment that can keep them “whole”. Passage of the Fair Access to Fertility Treatment Act would eliminate cost as a factor and enable women to hold on to their dreams of motherhood, the kind of family values all should support.
Legislation that requires insurance coverage for fertility preservation should be on every state’s agenda to protect cancer patients from the horrific effects of treating their disease. Passing the Fair Access to Fertility Treatment Act would bring New York in line with 21st-century medical treatment for cancer and family building, and restore New York as a leader on an issue that affects women across the country. Support for this just legislation, and others like it, should be widespread, non-partisan, and unequivocal.
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