IVF is a right, not a privilege

Ontario's fertility program celebrated its first birthday recently. The initiative makes fertility treatment more affordable for couples and single people. Toronto's Gillian Savigny says for the program to survive or grow, the public will have to change the way it views infertility.

The Ontario Fertility Program marked its one year anniversary recently.

The initiative makes fertility treatment more affordable for couples and single people. Though demand has been overwhelming, the program hasn't been without controversy.

Now, amidst calls for the province to rein in health spending, Toronto's Gillian Savigny says if the program is to survive or grow, the public will have to change how it views infertility. 

"I hope it recognizes that fertility is a right for all, not just a privilege for some- Gillian Savigny

Savigny, who was diagnosed with infertility at the age of 31, says the issue has never been included in the broader campaigns for reproductive rights. 

Instead, those efforts have sought to empower women by voicing their right to access the tools with which to control their fertility: namely contraception and abortion. 

"Artificial insemination and in vitro fertilization are no less necessary to those who find themselves unable to control their own bodies when they make the choice to have children," says Savigny, whose own experience was a two-year-long journey that included countless diagnostic tests, hormone injections, months of counselling, five failed AI treatments, one cycle of IVF and two failed embryo transfers.

In the end, IVF worked for Savigny, and she and her husband now have a healthy baby boy.

But she says the experience taught her how infertility leaves people with little control and choice over the outcome.

And, Savigny acknowledges, she is part of a small minority of people who have the means to pay for the treatment. One cycle of IVF carries a price tag of up to $11,000, not including drugs and services like embryo freezing — and more than one cycle is often required.

When someone like me does talk about it, it's often swept aside as a 'vanity procedure' spoken of in the same breath as cosmetic surgery, tattoo removal and orthodontics. But infertility is devastating.- Gillian Savigny

Research suggests only 15 percent of couples who need IVF can afford it, and Savigny argues that means thousands of Canadians who want to have children and build a family can't and don't.


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