Every year, millions of couples struggle to start a family, experiencing problems with infertility. Some say the situation can feel hopeless, with the costs of treatment being overwhelming.
Advocates across the country are pushing for their states to adopt insurance coverage for infertility.
One woman shares her story, as she dedicates her life to making sure others don’t have to face what she did.
As a photographer of newborns, Kara Edwards takes a moment in time and gives it to a family forever. But as someone who works with little ones, she’s long had fears she wouldn’t have children of her own, a journey that could sometimes feel very lonely.
“We always knew we wanted a family, and I didn’t think that would be an issue, but it turned out to be one,” said Edwards. “We sought medical help.”
Over four years, Edwards worried she wouldn’t get those moments of taking her children to the playground on a summer day.
“My husband and I had those conversations, maybe this isn’t what God had planned for us, but I knew in my heart, that wasn’t the truth,” she said. “We ended up having to go the IVF route, the in-vitro route. We got pregnant with boy-girl twins. From four years of never seeing a positive pregnancy test to finally seeing that second line, there’s just no way to explain that.”
Edwards’ twins, Braxton and Bexleigh, are 8-years-old today.
“I took 603 injections to my stomach and my hips during all of it, and none of it was covered by insurance,” she said. “Credit cards were run up, second mortgage taken out on our home. Literally, anything we could scrape together is what we used. When I called my insurance rep, I asked, ‘What’s my deductible?’ She said, ‘We don’t cover infertility.’ She said, ‘You don’t need a child to live.’”
In fact, only 19 states have passed any kind of infertility insurance laws, and 13 of those states include in-vitro fertilization coverage.
National legislation has just been re-introduced in the Access to Infertility Treatment and Care Act. If passed, it would require most private insurance health plans, including plans by Medicaid and the VA, to provide coverage for infertility treatment.
Raising money to help the many couples not covered, Edwards began the Starfish Infertility Foundation. In joining forces with Tennessee Fertility Advocates, Edwards became a voice for infertility coverage legislation in her state and others. In many states, the debate centers around the costs of the legislation. In discussions in the Tennessee legislature, concerns were brought up that with rising costs, people would lose their commercial insurance, lending to rising numbers of uninsured people.
“People always jump to the assumption that infertility coverage is everybody does IVF,” Edwards said. “Only 3% of people needing fertility support need IVF.”
A recent photo project by the Tennessee Fertility Advocates shows the faces of many people who have experienced infertility, people who advocate for coverage. As a photographer, Edwards is someone who knows the power of pictures and what they can mean.
“You are not alone,” said Edwards. “People don’t have to struggle. They don’t have to sell their homes. This is a disease. I truly believe I was put through those trials to find my purpose.”