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Owning your fertility

Eggs over uterus, anyone?

By: Gigi Gradillas

  

I fall under the dreaded “Zillenial” title, meaning I don’t have signs in my room that say “Live, Laugh, Love,” but I’m also not wearing baby tees. I’m in my late twenties, so while I don’t want to have kids, I must also be mindful that my time to decide is limited. 

 

Freezing reproductive eggs has been around since 1986, according to the National Institutes of Health. This once taboo topic has become a topic of discussion for many reasons. 

 

Recently, the Alabama Supreme Court declared embryos stored for in vitro fertilization  purposes to be children with rights. Social media has targeted ads toward me about donating my eggs. Literally everyone is obsessed with our eggs. 

 

The health insurance coverage I have at work allows me to freeze my eggs. Have I ever thought of freezing my eggs before looking into my insurance? Absolutely not. But have I called my doctor and insurance to complete the first steps in doing it? Hell yes. 

 

It may sound blasé, but if I can get covered to give myself options for later, I’m taking that option and running with it. However, committing to two weeks of hormone injections and waking up at 7 a.m. for blood work sounds miserable. But at this stage of life, I need to take ownership of my fertility. 

 

I’m lucky enough that my insurance, under the fertility benefits program, allows me up to $30,000 as a lifetime benefit for fertility services. But it won’t cover the cost of everything. like storage, which can be anywhere from $500 to $1000 a year. 

 

I recognize that this privilege isn’t something everyone is met with. 

 

I’m hardly the first person to say that our healthcare systems are egregious. I think navigating the system at any age, be it your first doctor’s appointment as an adult or trying to navigate more complex diagnoses, could be counted as another job. 

 

Even with mandates, most health insurances will only cover egg and sperm freezing if a person has been diagnosed as infertile. In cases like this, insurance policies might cover egg and sperm freezing because reproductive health measures wouldn’t be considered voluntary anymore. 

 

Fertility treatments also face an accessibility issue within marginalized populations. LGBTQIA+ communities and communities of color are not met with the same inclusivity when it comes to choices surrounding their health. Something like egg freezing for LGBTQIA+ individuals isn’t even worded in most insurance policies. 

 

“That’s another issue that comes up in equity these days, thinking about people who are transgender,” said Shana Charles, an associate professor of public health at Cal State Fullerton and Fullerton city council member. “People who are born with a uterus who want to perhaps save that so that after they go through transition, their partner might want to use that for IVF.”

 

A senate bill introduced in 2023 sought to expand the diagnosis of infertility to include same-sex couples. It would also require commercial and public health plans to cover infertility treatments and services. However, the bill has been held up by lawmakers.

 

Some companies have found ways to combat these issues by covering the cost of hormone injections and egg retrieval by offering it for free on the condition that they donate half of their eggs retrieved and keep the rest, however that raises concerns over bioethics.

 

“We have to think about the perspective of when someone is financially vulnerable. Are they really thinking about the implications?” said Portia Jackson Preston, an associate professor of public health at CSUF. 

 

While these companies offer a golden ticket to helping someone and getting your eggs frozen for free, most people without the financial means don’t consider what their future looks like with potential children 

  

 

There’s also the aspect of a lack of health equity that needs to be considered by our lawmakers and insurance policy makers. 

“Health equity is a difference in health that has to do with the unjust allocation of resources in society,” Preston said.

 

She explained that even if a person could get this procedure covered by insurance, they might not have the means to go through with it, consult a doctor or find necessary transportation.  Even if they figure these variables out, it will also be a struggle to get enough time off of work to attend the necessary appointments.

 

“So when we talk about equities, it’s not just ‘do we have the same opportunities?’ It’s ‘do we have the resources needed to get on the equal playing field?’” Preston said.

 

While egg freezing isn’t where it needs to be in America yet, women have been looking toward traveling abroad to take advantage of lower cost healthcare. Countries like Spain and Mexico have an estimated cost of $5,500 on the high end.  

 

If legislators could knock down systemic barriers that gatekeep our bodily autonomy, fertility goals could be more accessible no matter the race or sexual orientations. We should all be given a fair chance at deciding if and when we want kids without going into debt or answering an ad on social media looking for egg donors. As for myself, I’m grateful and I realize my privilege of taking control over my fertility. I only hope for the same for others soon.