Infertility, Infertility Advocacy

Speak up

May 15, 2013

Speak your mind. Speak your heart.

“There is only one thing more powerful than all the armies of the world, that is an idea whose time has come.” – Victor Hugo

Guess what? It’s time!  You wouldn’t think that reproductive rights and access to healthcare would be such a novel idea, but it’s not obvious to everyone.  It’s time to change the conversation about infertility.  It’s time to tear down the walls of taboo associated with it.  It’s time that insurance companies and our government treat infertility as it should, as a disease.  It’s time for those suffering to know they’re not alone.  It’s time for financial relief.  It’s time to speak up.

If you’ve never taken the opportunity “to petition the government for a redress of grievances,” then you are missing out a basic American liberty.  One granted to us in the first amendment of the Bill of Rights.   On May 8th, 115 women and men from around the country gathered in Washington, D.C. to do just that — air our grievances regarding infertility.

Just being in our nation’s capital, walking in the shadows of great monuments and through the marble halls of the congressional buildings was exhilarating.

Even more so, was knowing that we held a meritorious cause in our hearts that we were there to give voice to and to fight for.  There’s really nothing like standing up for something you truly believe in. There’s nothing like feeling a deep passion inside of you and being able to release it in a positive and actionable way.

Advocacy Day did that for me.  This year, last year and the year before that.  I can’t imagine not coming after having experienced such a transformative event.  This year, we were honored to have Senator Patty Murray address our group.  Her remarks were very touching regarding military families dealing with infertility due to injuries sustained in battle.

One of things that I most enjoyed this year was seeing other women and men quietly gaining confidence and learning that they, too,  have a powerful voice.  I thoroughly enjoyed working on Advocacy Day behind the scenes as the vice co-chair and can’t wait to co-chair the event next year!

The Virginia group

Inside the Russell Senate building

Giving my remarks and going over logistics

Using the underground tunnels to get from building to building

Meeting & visiting with friends

I was able to meet (in person) some long-time and brand new friends that I had previously only conversed with by phone, email, Facebook or Twitter.  What a remarkable group of people and an uplifting way to meet!

At the welcome reception, a girl approached me that I have never met and said that she came because I had inspired her to do so.  What?? Amazing. I’m inspired by her that she came all the way from California.

I got to meet my longtime friend Aprill, finally, in person.  Same for my friend Katie.  I got to meet a girl that came from Canada!  I got to meet an wonderful couple from Texas that I had just recently been emailing with and we discovered we are practically infertility twins with our stories.  She is chairing the Walk of Hope in Houston and has 500 people registered! Go Angelica!

I got to meet a brave military wife.  I got to meet so many amazing people, all with sad stories, but some with happy endings.

Me with my friend, Aprill, from Boston

Me with the chair of Advocacy Day, the wonderful Risa Levine

My new friend, Angelica, from Texas

With my friend, Katie, from Florida

With my lovely vice co-chair, Jen Rutner

What we wanted to meet with Congress about

This year we informed Congress about the disease of infertility and we advocated for both The Family Act and The Womens Veterans and Other Healthcare Improvements Act.

The Family Act essentially provides a tax credit for IVF with cost sharing, similar to the Adoption Tax Credit.  It would go a long way towards helping couples afford the treatment they so badly need.

The Womens Veterans and Other Healthcare Improvements Act would provide increased benefits, specifically including IVF, to military families and veterans who experience a loss of their fertility directly related to their service to our country.  Can you imagine fighting for our country, being injured in battle and losing your fertility in the process, coming home and facing not being able to have children?

I can’t.  This is deplorable. That is a sacrifice that doesn’t need to be added to the list of the many sacrifices already made.  Let’s support our brave men and women and fight for them, just like they fight for us!

Your Letters

I was absolutely overjoyed to have in my possession over 100 letters from friends, family and strangers representing 11 states!  Thank you so much to every one of you who wrote a letter and sent it to me.  We divided up the letters to be delivered by advocates that were present from the respective states.  I, of course, personally delivered almost all of the Virginia letters.  I was so proud to lay a stack of letters in front of our congressional representatives and say that infertility is important to your constituents.  Here are their letters.

Also, beware, I will be on a huge letter offensive next year.  I want to paper Congress with our letters!

Our meetings

The Virginia contingent met with Senator Kaine and Senator Warner’s legislative assistants in separate meetings.  Our group was so large that we had to meet in the hallway for the first one and in a stairwell for the second one. Our meetings went great, but we didn’t get any promises, which is typical.  We have to keep working and keep following up.

Our meeting with Congressman Morgan Griffith’s office was scheduled with his legislative aide, but the Congressman was there to meet with us himself. (yay!)  I have to say that going into the meeting, I didn’t expect much support from him for some reason.  I started to tell him our story, and he stopped me and said, “Yea, I know.  I read the article,” referring to the article about Erick and I that ran on the front page of The Roanoke Times the previous week.  I was shocked.  I couldn’t believe he had read it.

Erick, me, Congressman Griffith and Leigh

We talked about The Family Act and how expensive treatment is.  He was supportive in a very genuine way.  He indicated that he would be inclined to support the legislation, as long as something that he didn’t support didn’t get thrown into the bill.  I left the meeting feeling very pleasantly surprised.  His office even tweeted me after it was over.

Oh yea…

And, we met a few celebrities! We met Bryan Cranston from Breaking Bad, Argo, etc.  We got a photo with him and talked to him about The Family Act.  He was in front of us in line for the Senate Dirksen Building and then on the way out, we saw Val Kilmer in the same line!  Whoa!

With Bryan Cranston

Val Kilmer

What you can do

  1. Plan to come next year!  I know it takes a substantial effort to be there, but you won’t regret it!
  2. Make an appointment with your House representative for your local office if possible.  (I did this two years ago on my own.)
  3. Call!
  4. Send a letter!

Just because you didn’t come to advocacy day doesn’t mean you can’t play an important role NOW!  Every phone call, every letter and every email will help!

Write a letter –keep it simple. Just tell them how infertility has impacted your life or someone you know and how the The Family Act could help.  Ask them to please co-sponsor it!  (This is the important ask!)

More Information:
The Family Act (S 881 |  HR 1851)
The Womens Veterans and Other Healthcare Improvements Act (S 131)

Who are your elected officials?
U.S. Senate  |  U.S. House of Representatives

Resources + Connect

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