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Rectifying an Unspoken Sacrifice of Military Service

Infertility, recognized by the American Medical Association and the World Health Organization as a disease, impacts as many as 7.3 million couples in the United States. The disease of infertility does not discriminate, impacting Americans regardless of race, age, ethnicity, sexual orientation, or economic status. And it does not take a time-out for those who bravely step up to serve in the United States Military.

More than 95 percent of active-duty servicewomen are in their childbearing years, and an increasing body of evidence shows the unique risks to reproductive health posed by military service, yet their access to infertility care is severely limited. TRICARE, which provides healthcare benefits to active-duty service members, does not cover key reproductive health procedures, including IVF and egg freezing. Without insurance, infertility care is unaffordable for many. 

It’s time to fix that. The 117th Congress and the incoming Administration must establish permanent infertility benefits for active-duty members of the Military. This idea is not new. Last session, bipartisan, bicameral legislation to achieve this goal, the Access to Infertility Treatment and Care Act of 2019, gained traction before the pandemic crisis pulled legislative focus.

Addressing cost barriers to infertility care isn’t solved with a one-size-fits-all solution. Military leadership also must address other barriers to family building, such as the impact of months-long deployment or shared barracks. But covering the cost of these treatments would be a tremendous first step.

Meeting the reproductive healthcare needs of service members is critical to ensuring military readiness and mission accomplishment. It is a moral imperative that we provide the best quality care to facilitate family building for those who sacrifice so much to protect the health and safety of our country. This is an issue many who serve in the 117thCongress may well recognize as critical. Approximately 27% of the 79 lawmakers aged 45 or younger served in the military. 

As president of the American Society for Reproductive Medicine, which has, for more than 75 years, been the global leader in multidisciplinary reproductive medicine research, ethical practice, and education, I signal ASRM’s commitment to ensuring all who are serving in our armed forces have affordable access to infertility care. Our armed forces and future generations are counting on us.

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