I was intrigued to read in the New York Times that Elizabeth Edwards‘ children, Jack and Emma Claire were both conceived using what the article called “fertility treatment:
…Women who have had trouble conceiving are well aware that Elizabeth Edwards, who began having children again in her late 40s, had fertility treatment to begin her second family.
(from A Modern Breed of Political Wife, which also appeared in the July 9th edition of International Herald Tribune from which it was published by the Georgetown Times and zwire.com).
Katharine Seelye in the July 23rd edition of the Times (Unpretentious Political Wife Strikes Empathetic Chords) goes a little farther in writing:
She took hormone shots and gave birth when she was 48 to a daughter, Emma Claire, now 6, and to a son, Jack, now 4, when she was 50.
I have to assume that since Elizabeth Edwards conceived Emma Claire at the age of 48 that it is highly likely that she used an egg donor procedure to do so for her last or possibly both children (saying she “took hormone shots” to conceive seems to point away from egg donation until one realizes that in both IVF AND egg donation, a woman “takes hormone shots”). It’s certainly understandable that if the Edwards haven’t even told their children that they’re egg donor babies (and I’m not saying that they definitely ARE) that they wouldn’t want the world to know either. And believe me, I sympathize with their interest in protecting their children’s privacy. Though unfortunately as public figures, much more is known about them and will become known about them than they might like.
Egg donation is the same procedure that my wife and I have used to produce our son (and soon to be twins). It is a miraculous procedure which allows otherwise infertile couples to conceive a child which, while not possessing the birth mother’s DNA, it at least possesses the father’s. And of course most importantly it allows that birth mother to have a child she could not otherwise have.
While I understand that fertility treatments are not things that people who’ve undergone them like to shout about from the rooftops, I wonder if it wouldn’t be reasonable to ask Elizabeth Edwards to use her bully pulpit to do a little advocating on behalf of all of us who suffer from infertility. There’s a lot of misconceptions and downright hostility toward infertility out there in the world–including in the media. I’ve even been stridently attacked after posting on the John Edwards website (“how insensitive of you” “how intrusive of you” “what’s wrong with you” “how selfish of you to bring up this subject when we’re trying to win an election”). I think Ms. Edwards could go a long way toward changing such attitudes.
Here’s a single example of what she could do: only 12 states compel HMOs to cover infertility treatment in health insurance policies (see RESOVE.org’s Insurance Coverage of Infertility Treatments). My state, Washington (and the other 37), provide no protection for infertile couples. As a result, we had to pay the enormous cost of the procedure out of our own pockets. The result is that only relatively well-off couples can afford this procedure. Don’t we think that many women with lower incomes would benefit from such treatment? Well, they can’t get it now and that’s a dirty shame in my opinion.
I understand that the population of infertile people isn’t great relative to the entire U.S. population and that there’s not a big political constituency out there for this. But since she’s benefited herself, I’d hope she’d be willing to help others who would benefit too if they could afford it.
I’d like to commuicate these views directly to Ms. Edwards and her staff. If anyone reading this knows how I can do this, please let me know. I’ve written this letter to Ms. Edwards care of the Kerry-Edwards national campaign headquarters in Washington, DC. We’ll see if she gets it and responds to it.
UPDATE: As of October 24, 2004, Ms. Edwards has not responded to my letter.