Infertility fights back

February 17, 2012

Today, we fought back.  We didn’t sit idly by, while politicians tried to say that personhood won’t affect infertility treatments.   We didn’t remain quiet as politicians tried to sneak into our doctors’ office examination rooms. And, we didn’t watch silently as the legislature snapped on a pair of gloves.

“The Virginia legislature is not my physician.”

RESOLVE and volunteers: Barbara Collura, Vicki Humphreys, Marnee Beck, me and Rebecca Flick

We made sure our voices were heard regarding how House Bill 1 in Virginia would affect infertility. Also, see my post: “NO to Anti-Family Personhood Legislation in Virginia.”

Last night, RESOLVE invited me to speak at a press event today in Richmond at the General Assembly building.

This morning, we left early, with plenty of time to spare. But, as usual, we got stuck on interstate 81 at a total standstill for one hour due to a tractor-trailer accident.  My dad looked at me and said, “You know, if these politicians want to do something, why don’t they work on these roads, widen 81, work on the economy.  Why on earth are they coming up with bills about embryos?”  I replied, “Yes, why indeed?”

Traffic cleared finally and we still made it there in time.  I was so nervous.  The room was packed with people I didn’t know and there were at least three news cameras there.  It’s one thing to write about infertility and quite another to step up to the podium and speak into the microphone.

The press event

First up, Barbara Collura, the executive director of RESOLVE spoke about why Delegate Robert Marshall is wrong in concluding that Section 7 of HB1 specifically exempts infertility treatment.  “Section 7 is artfully worded,” she said, “and experts on reproductive medicine and law have reviewed its language  — and they tell us infertility patients will not be protected.”    Section 7 states: Nothing in this section shall be interpreted as affecting lawful assisted conception. There are two problems, Barbara explained.  One is that lawful is a huge red flag, because what is lawful? What is lawful is being redefined. Secondly, assisted conception, per Virginia code, means a pregnancy resulting from assisted reproductive technology, but not the process or the treatment itself, only the result.

Delegate Jennifer McClellan spoke about all of the many unintended consequences and possible scenarios.  Senator Donald McEachin showed his support by speaking a few words as well.

Dr. Gianfortoni

A Richmond reproductive endocrinologist, Dr. Joseph Gianfortoni, gave a passionate speech about how he was the father of an IVF baby, whose now studying at Carnegie Mellon.  He spoke of the many scenarios that would be impossible as a physician. Such as giving care to a woman with an ectopic pregnancy, which is dangerous for the mother and impossible for the pregnancy to survive.  So, would he able able to save the life of the woman without being held criminally liable for removing the non-viable embryo?

Vicki Humphreys, a former IVF patient, showed a picture of her beautiful daughter and said, “If this law were passed four years ago, I would not be a mom today.”


And, finally, I spoke.  Here were my remarks:

Hi, my name is Whitney. I want to be a mom. But, I can’t because I have a disease.  But, due to the miracle of modern science and a depleted bank account, I have had the opportunity to undergo in vitro fertilization. While IVF helped me get pregnant, I could not stay pregnant and have lost five pregnancies in all.  Under this new overly broad legislation, it’s scary and unclear as to whether my doctor or I would have been held criminally liable for my miscarriage since the suspected cause of my infertility is a hostile uterine environment.  Would that be endangering an embryo? The thought of being criminally prosecuted after enduring the heartache of a miscarriage makes me ill.

Trust me, nobody cares more about my embryos than me and my husband.  Nobody wants to protect them more than us.

Also, 4 of the 6 times we did IVF, we did a frozen transfer.  Under this new legislation, it certainly seems that cryopreservation would be illegal because it carries a risk of loss of embryos. The ability to freeze embryos was vital to my care because after the egg retrievals, I became very sick with ovarian hyperstimulation and could not proceed with the transfer because it would have been dangerous to my health to get pregnant in that condition.  So with the new legislation, in this situation, if cryopreservation wasn’t allowed, my embryos would have died and that would be on Virginia!  The Virginia legislature is not my physician.

Currently, my husband and I are pursuing gestational surrogacy.  I want my doctor and embryologist to do whatever it takes so that they can help us have a baby. I do not want them to say:  Sorry guys,  there is a procedure that would help you, but in 2012 the VA legislature outlawed it, so we can can’t do it here in Virginia.  You will need to leave the state to get this life-affirming care.

Contrary to current rhetoric, Section 7 does not protect me.  It says, “Nothing in this section shall be interpreted as affecting lawful assisted conception.”  The problem with this statement is the word “lawful.” The only assisted reproduction that will be defined as “lawful” is where this is no chance that an embryo could be damaged, destroyed, or lost.  Therefore, assisted reproduction will be severely restricted.

Isn’t it ironic that this legislation aimed at those who don’t want children, would also take away my rights and my dream of having a child?  Me. The person who has fought and clawed her way through infertility for over six years. Me. The person that would move heaven and earth to have a child.  I will be the innocent bystander that becomes the casualty of this legislation.

Don’t take away my right to have the care that I need and deserve, right here in my home state of Virginia.

In conclusion

I think that Del. Robert Marshall needs to read the code a little better. I would direct him to 20-156 to see how assisted conception is defined.

I was happy to be able to speak about this topic that I am so passionate about and to have a chance to be heard.  I felt bad that I couldn’t speak clearly without choking up though.

I have shared some of my story and the press coverage on Facebook and Twitter today and am I just overwhelmed with your positive comments and support.  Thank you so much for supporting the 7.1 million Americans who suffer from infertility!

All in all, it was a good day and I was happy to meet the fabulous ladies from RESOLVE and everyone else.

I am so grateful to RESOLVE for their tireless work on behalf of all of us.  Please consider making a donation to them.

Talking to Sam Brock of CBS and Derick Waller of NBC

Press Coverage and articles mentioning us:

What happens next?

The bill will go to a Senate sub-committee next week.

If you live in Virginia, what can you do? (In order of importance)

  1. EDUCATE yourself.  Key points:
    1. Overall, the whole thing makes any possible harm to an embryo unlawful, therefore IVF would become unlawful.
    2. Section 7 states: Nothing in this section shall be interpreted as affecting lawful assisted conception.  Lawful is a huge red flag, because what is lawful is being redefined.
    3. Secondly, assisted conception, per Virginia code, means a pregnancy resulting from assisted reproductive technology, but not the process or the treatment itself, only the result.
    4. Also, see talking points from RESOLVE.  Also, see my HB1 post.
  2. Meet with your Senator – Go to Richmond!   If interested, email RESOLVE at so that they can help you.  This will need to happen in the next 7 days.
  3. Call your Senator’s office – Request to speak to the Senator or Legislative Director.  Tell them you care about people with infertility and you oppose the VA Personhood Bill, HB1. Tell them why Section 7 doesn’t protect us.   Click here to find out who your senator is.
  4. Send an email to your Senator. Even if you have already sent a letter, send another one.  It’s so easy with this letter creator.
  5. Call your Virginia physicians – Ob/Gyns, Reproductive Endocrinologists, Nurses, and Embryologists –  and ask them to get involved by helping to spread the message. They can contact RESOLVE at info@resolve.orgfor more information.  The American Congress of Obstetrics and Gynecology and the American Society for Reproductive Medicine oppose Personhood legislation.
  6. Sign this petition, “Stop the War on Women” to Lieutenant Governor Bill Bolling, The Virginia State Senate, and Governor Bob McDonnell–
  7. Share – Share this information with your friends and family and ask them to call and email, too! Tweet it! Facebook it!
  8. Stay up date – Like my page on Facebook for updates.  Or, follow me on Twitter.
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  • Whitney

    Just wanted to express my support! I heard an excerpt of your remarks on the radio this morning and started to choke up. I was recently diagnosed with PCOS and IVF will be an option for my husband and I down the road if my current options don’t work. Thank you for getting the word out about infertility. It comforts me knowing that I’m not alone.

    • Whitney

      Thank you, Whitney!

  • Dad

    I wanted all that have read this to know that everybody in the room was in tears after Whitney’s presentation. It was quite moving and has stirred a lot of things on this controversial issue. I am so proud of our brave daughter that was somehow able to get past nerves, personal feelings, and the passion of the whole affair to get this done. I Love you Whitney and Mom and I are so proud of you and what you are doing.

    • Whitney

      Thanks, Dad! Thanks for going with me. I love you!

  • Karen

    Thank you for being a voice for all of us who have already suffered too much with infertility.

    • Whitney

      Thanks, Karen!

  • elf

    *wild cheering from across the Pacific*

    Great speech – factual, honest and heartfelt. You’re incredibly inspiring!

    • Whitney

      Thank you!

  • you are very brave!
    thank you

  • Silvana

    Te felicito, mejor no lo pudiste explicar.
    Estoy orgullosa de ti.
    I am so proud of you!