EverThrive Illinois has spent over 30 years working to improve the lives of pregnant people, children, and families in Illinois by ensuring that all people have access to quality affordable health care. As part of our mission and vision for Illinois, we believe every family should have the right to choose if, when, and how they will have children. However, infertility and challenges accessing fertility treatment have created barriers for many people in our state. Today we recognize National Infertility Awareness Week and we thank Governor Pritzker for issuing a proclamation to officially recognize and support this occasion.
To achieve reproductive justice, we must reckon with the racial disparities present in infertility and treatment. Black women are twice as likely to experience infertility but are half as likely to access treatment. Barriers such as poor access, stigma, shame, and racist beliefs that black women are hyper-fertile have led us to this point, and it takes a serious toll. Studies have found a diagnosis of infertility to be as psychologically damaging as a diagnosis of other serious illnesses, including HIV and cancer.
Creating awareness of infertility and expanding coverage for treatments in Illinois can go a long way in reducing shame and stigma so that all people, but especially Black, Indigenous, and People of Color who are experiencing infertility, feel less alone and know what options may be available for treatment. Awareness is important, but increased access to providers and services is the key to addressing disparities in treatment.
Illinois is a leader in reproductive rights in many ways, but we have more work to do. A 1991 law passed by the Illinois legislature requires companies with more than 25 employees to offer health insurance that covers fertility treatments. Infertility is recognized by the World Health Organization as a disease and our state law makes necessary fertility treatments, such as IVF, available to many families that otherwise not have access to treatment. However, the law’s definition of infertility is often interpreted in a way that excludes LGBTQIA couples and single parents by choice and creates treatment delays for those experiencing recurrent pregnancy loss. Even if Illinois further expanded the definition of infertility, many insured people would still be unable to access these benefits because they have health insurance plans that do not need to meet the state mandates, including plans from small employers, employers with religious exemptions, Medicaid and Medicare plans, and others. Additionally, the state’s current law does not require coverage for important diagnostic tests that can increase success rates of fertility treatments, such as commonly used endometrial biopsies and testing of embryos to prevent pregnancy loss.
Our vision for reproductive justice in Illinois includes access to fertility treatment and support for everyone, regardless of insurance coverage, employer size, identity, income, ability, and immigration status. We cannot stop working until everyone has access to the care they need to be healthy and create a fulfilling life of their own design.
If you or someone you know is struggling to pay for infertility treatment, please visit CoFertility’s Grant Search page for fertility treatment grants, donated services, and discounted medicine. For more information about infertility advocacy and education, visit RESOLVE.