So here’s my disclaimer: I don’t really “do” politics. I do believe it is important as an American citizen to vote and pretty much harp all my friends who don’t vote. I don’t care if when you go to vote, instead of picking a candidate, you choose the write-in option and vote for Elvis, so long as you voted. I believe if you’re gonna complain about the government then you should at the very least make damn sure you participate at least every 4 years by casting a ballot. I keep up on major political issues mostly because it actually interest me. But go all ‘full-force’ and debate issues and campaign and all that? Not really my thing. I vote my conscience, and that means I often vote for different political parties.
But despite all this I have felt pulled to engage further in the political scene for a number of personal reasons lately. It started when we became foster parents and saw that despite having some of the toughest and best laws “on the books” for the protection of children, the government actually doesn’t enforce them all that often. Funding to the state workers who actually investigate suspected child abuse cases is continually on the chopping block so that whatever current political party is in office can claim they “balanced the budget.”
And for those of you who don’t get why this gets me SO worked up you have to understand how MIRACULOUS it was that there is a beautiful foster baby sleeping in our house right now. Because it was an underpaid, overworked, state employee who hasn’t had a raise in years that pushed to investigate this child’s situation. And it was another underpaid, overworked, state employee who fought to get this child a special designation in the court system that affords her more protection and monitoring, (despite the lack of law enforcement all around). And that means that for almost a year a sweet little baby got to be loved and cherished and got a start on life she was very close to not having.
All this to say that despite the many, many wrong things that occur in our political system (I promised myself I would not make a Palin or Anthony Weiner joke, but damn it is SO tempting), I’d rather participate than sit on the sidelines. And so I find myself feeling called to write a letter to my senator in support of a piece of legislation. Do I have a personal investment in seeing this piece of legislation passed? You bet I do. And that was how our government system was set up, so that people could lobby for their needs and wants. You may or may not agree with me on this issue, and that is ok. I thought I would share my letter with you all. Maybe you will feel called to write your senator too.
I am incredibly blessed. Though at first glance it might not seem like it. You see, my husband and I are struggling with severe infertility issues. So severe that we have been told our best chance at having a biological child is to do a procedure called In-Vitro- Fertilization. This is the most expensive fertility treatment out there, ranging from $7,000 to $15,000 in cost (more if you have to use donated eggs or sperm).
The blessing is that we actually have amazing health insurance coverage for these treatments. Through my husband’s job as a minister in the United Methodist Church we receive health care coverage that will cover 80% of the cost of an IVF cycle with a max of 4 IVF cycles allowed. I’m not sure if you are aware of this or not, but this type of coverage for infertility is pretty much unheard of. This took our cost down from around $13,500 to about $3,000. We have tried one IVF cycle so far, which succeeded in us getting pregnant, but I later miscarried.
As I reflected on the entire process people would ask me how I was coping with the loss of the pregnancy. And I could honestly answer them that I was overjoyed that I even got to try. Because for so many women, (and men), facing infertility issues they receive absolutely no insurance coverage for a DISEASE that is recognized by the World Health Organization. Had we not had the insurance coverage that we do we would most likely never be able to afford any fertility treatments.
When we first got married we dreamed about one day having a houseful of kids. It was devastating when we learned that dream would probably never come true. We hope to be lucky enough to have one or two. And it is sad to think that our ability to try and get pregnant will be limited to whether or not we can afford it. Our health insurance is great, but we only get four tries. Could you imagine being limited in that way? That instead of your wants and desires for a family being determined by you and your spouse that it was instead determined by whether or not you could afford to even try to get pregnant?
Sadly that is what it comes down to for us and for the countless others struggling with the disease of infertility. And yes, there are other ways to be parents through foster care and adoption. My husband and I are foster parents and would love to adopt a foster child, but we have spent the last year learning just how hard that is to actually do. In the case of private adoption, even with the tax-credit that is already in place, it is more costly than fertility treatments, averaging $15,000-$40,000 for a domestic or international adoption.
And that is why I write to you. There is a bill that was introduced by Senator Kristen Gillibrand, Family Act of 2011, S 965. This bill will offer a tax credit to families coping with the costs of infertility treatments. I would hope you would support this bill and even consider co-sponsoring it. This bill is not a handout. A tax credit simply reduces the tax load on a couple already struggling with high medical bills. While medical expenses are already deductible, (if they add up to more than 7.5% of your adjusted gross income), the nature of fertility treatments are that they often span more than one tax year. This means a couple may spend thousands of dollars over a few years, but that for each particular year it never adds up to 7.5% of that year’s income.
That is precisely our case. While we spent a significant amount on our fertility treatments, it crossed over different tax years, so we did not have enough medical expenses to add up to 7.5%. What this boils down to is that even with our fantastic insurance coverage, we can’t afford to try again for a while.
I hope you will consider this bill and consider the effect its passing could have on the countless couples who want nothing more than to simply have a chance at being parents.
PS – So once I did actually vote for Elvis. It was a local government election and the two candidates were both absolute scum.
PPS – To learn more about this Infertility bill and find out who your senators are go here: Proposed Infertility Law
PPPS – Yes I am looking to ways to advocate for better enforcement of child protection laws, but as of now it seems pretty insurmountable. I briefly toyed with the idea of becoming a lawyer and working for child protection agencies. Then I found some transcripts of court cases where our local DCS lawyer was involved and saw that they are just as hand tied in the legal system. That would drive me crazy I think.