NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — At least one in six couples experience fertility issues and medical personnel, advocates and lawmakers in Tennessee are working to offer more resources to families since infertility journeys can be financially devastating.
A bill that a Knoxville senator sponsored to help bring hope and better insurance coverage to families struggling with infertility was deferred to next year. But the legislation is still giving hope to those who have worked to bring more awareness to the issue.
According to Tennessee Fertility Advocates, which is based in Memphis with affiliates in Middle and East Tennessee, Tennessee currently has no fertility care or fertility preservation coverage for most employers to offer their employees.
“My husband and I went through a painfully long four-year battle of infertility with both female and male factor before welcoming our boy-girl twins in 2013, which is why this bill is so important to me,” Tennessee Fertility Advocates Middle Tennessee Lead Kara Edwards stated in Wednesday’s Senate hearing. “Since we are not lobbyists, we have truly worked from day one to collaborate with legislators, insurance companies, and interested parties to come up with a bill that is helpful to everyone. Their concerns over the insurance pricing of this bill, we’ve worked tirelessly, making cuts compromises and concessions in order to be sensitive to the impact on small businesses and families.”
Edwards went on to say the legislation is for the betterment of the population of Tennessee, which is seeing a decreasing birth rate in this state: “The legislation just makes sense for the future of Tennessee. This legislation is about the creation of life and the protection of it; it creates a solution for so many couples who simply want a family. This is more than just a good cause. It’s a disease that affects one in six couples, and it deserves treatment.”
One-third of states in the U.S. have passed legislation requiring insurers to cover or offer coverage for infertility diagnosis and treatment. Advocates and lawmakers like Massey hope to include Tennessee in this list of states offering better coverage for people trying to build their families.
In a Senate hearing with the Commerce and Labor Committee on Wednesday, Sen. Becky Duncan Massey (R-Knoxville) took to the podium, where she spoke about deferring it to the first calendar of next year.
“Again I want to compliment these ladies, they have put their heart and soul with and they represent 7,000 families across the state. You know, this ahead – one of our fellow lobbyists here tell me they were the best unpaid lobbyist he had ever seen that’s worked the legislature. And I think they have visited everybody in here, plus more multiple, multiple times. But, you know, this bill really is about building families, it’s about building hope for husbands and wives that want a child. It’s about a medical procedure that is- that treats a disease, it’s like Senator Briggs says, God gave him his hands, that he could do heart surgery, that, that we can’t do things without the gifts that God gives us and that’s what this these treatments are, they’re available for people that have a disease. And I think that’s I think that’s what we all want to get to. We want to support, and we want to help give the gift of families to these people. So with that being said, we’re going to continue to work on it and clear up any, any misconceptions, things that have been said that aren’t true, and make sure everything is crystal clear in this bill. And so with that I’d like to roll it to the first calendar of next year.”
The hearing and bill deferment comes during National Infertility Awareness Week, which was recognized this year as April 18-24. The week invites those struggling with infertility to raise awareness by sharing their story, become part of the conversation to bring change and better access to resources, and heal.
To date, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that the national general fertility rate in the U.S. has decreased from 2019 to 2020 based on the total number of births per 1,000 women aged 15-44 years old.