Dear Senator Tillis: You’ve Taken Away Wounded American Veterans’ Future Families

Dear Senator Tillis,

I was very disappointed to hear about the pulling of The Women Veterans and Families Health Services Act of 2015 bill from a vote this past week, which could have ended the 23-year ban on in vitro fertilization for our wounded veterans.  It appears this was the direct result of some addendums added by you at the last minute prior to a final vote.  As the father of an IVF baby who is now 12 years old, I fully understand the future your actions have just taken away from veterans who have not only served our country, but in many cases have been incapacitated by injuries that make infertility their only option.

You were quoted as saying that ‘we need to get our priorities in order’ before considering a bill to allow for infertility treatment, but ‘getting those priorities in order’ will take time. And time is not something these veterans have.

Keep in mind that in addition to the biology of these wounded veterans, their spouses’ biological clocks are still ticking. Your actions have added insult to injury by adding amendments to the Senate Bill that have nothing to do with whether a wounded veteran should have access to infertility treatment covered by the VA. Now, in addition to trying to build a life here with careers that will be amenable to their injuries, they will have to figure out a way to pay out of pocket for infertility treatments that cost tens of thousands of dollars, while the biological clock of both the veteran and their spouse’s remaining fertility continues to tick mercilessly away.

As a Catholic, Republican voting Independent I continue to be puzzled by the way infertility treatments are attacked by the pro life movement. Five million babies have been born as the result of IVF worldwide. Five million new lives brought into this world as a direct result of this amazing technology. Five million babies who have touched the lives of millions of mothers, fathers, grandparents, uncles, aunts, cousins…and on and on.

Now the veterans who are injured at the hands of the despicable cowards that are constantly improving the damaging power of IEDS on the battlefield, have to contend with a political battle that adds a tremendous financial burden to wounded veterans’ ability to build a family.
I understand and actually agree with the nature of many of the amendments you proposed. The sale of aborted fetal tissue, whether it has been a standard practice or not, is despicable. No matter how the topic is spun, you will have my full support of a bill to stop that practice—just not at the expense of The Women Veterans and Family Health Services Act of 2015, which has only one purpose in its original form: to help wounded veterans and their spouses build families and bring life into this world.

As infertility patients for six years, my wife and I cherished every embryo we created, knowing they represented the potential for life. However, those embryos had no chance of actually becoming life until they were transferred into the womb of my wife. There is a misconception that embryos are ‘implanted’ when an IVF procedure is performed. I believe the use of this word by pro-life anti-IVF policy makers is intentional—to give the impression doctors knowingly put in too many or too few embryos to create an abundance of embryos for some ulterior motive.

Infertility patients would be overjoyed if embryos could actually be ‘implanted’. However, that process happens, nature permitting in about 50% of IVF cycles, assuming you have the resources to go to one of the top clinics in the country. Embyros are TRANSFERRED—meaning that they don’t actually become viable, growing life until they implant, if they implant. If they don’t, they are absorbed into a woman’s womb, just like they are with women who don’t undergo infertility treatments.

The infertility community, and especially wounded veterans rendered infertile by injuries sustained in the line of duty, don’t deserve to be dragged into the pro-life/pro-choice debate. Couples who seek the help of assisted reproduction are interested in one outcome: a healthy, full term baby.

My formerly frozen embryo wants to change the world, and has given us those milestone moments of joy and beauty that Americans yearn for as part of the ‘American dream’—the first time we heard her heartbeat on an ultrasound, the first time we heard her cry, the first time we held her, the first time she laughed, the first time we changed a blow out diaper, the first time we felt her heartbeat next to ours during those late night moments of magic when we realized we were finally parents. All milestones that you have taken away for wounded veterans by adding amendments that have nothing to do with the true intention of this bill.

There are 8.3 million Americans going through some form of infertility, and their voices are getting louder and their numbers are growing. I know, because I lobbied a few months ago for the very bill that we are discussing along with several hundred other infertility advocates on behalf of Resolve, The National Infertility Association. I implore you to reconsider your actions, and let The Women Veterans and Families Health Services Act of 2015 go to a vote in its original form, so that wounded veterans get their chance at building a family without the burden of the cost of infertility treatment added to the burden of recovering from their battle injuries.

Their biological clocks are ticking.

Please do the right thing, and soon.

Leave a reply