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The Cost of Parenthood for LGBTQ+ Families

Anna Libertin

Director of Communications, Family Equality

Family Equality’s research shows that nearly four million LGBTQ+ millennials are considering starting or growing their family in the years ahead — but serious economic and systemic barriers stand in the way of many LGBTQ+ people’s parenting dreams. 

Becoming a parent is expensive regardless of who you are, where you live, or what your family structure is. But for people who are in same-sex relationships, living with HIV/AIDS, or medically transitioning, costs can increase by up to hundreds of thousands of dollars. 

“We’ve put our wedding gifts, tax refunds, and COVID-19 stimulus checks all towards building our family,” said Family Equality’s Family Engagement Manager, Jess Venable-Novak. “We’ve spent tens of thousands of dollars out of pocket so far — not including the costs of things like second-parent adoption, which I’ll have to do to make sure both my partner and I are recognized as the legal parents.” 

It’s not just the cost of assisted reproductive technology (ART), surrogacy, or adoption and foster care that needs to be considered when financially planning for LGBTQ+ family-building.  For example, people living outside a metropolitan area may have to pay to travel and take time away from work just to find affirming providers and agencies willing to work with them, due to a lack of federal nondiscrimination protections for LGBTQ+ people.

Additionally, LGBTQ+ folks disproportionately live below the poverty line, and poverty rates are even higher for those who are Black, trans or gender non-conforming, and bisexual female-identified, making elevated costs for treatment an even greater burden.

This is particularly true in a country where most health insurance is provided via employer. With the LGBTQ+ community’s higher rates of unemployment — particularly in the time of COVID-19 — many have no choice but to pay out-of-pocket for these expenses. Even for those who can access health insurance through their employer, most companies require six to twelve months of “trying to conceive” before coverage for assisted reproductive technology kicks in. Many LGBTQ+ couples — specifically LGBTQ+ couples without the anatomy necessary to “try” to conceive on their own — can’t meet this criteria.

Despite all this, LGBTQ+ households making less than $25,000 a year (which is nearly the cost of one IVF cycle and only a fraction of the cost of gestational surrogacy) are considering becoming parents at very similar rates to those making over $100,000 a year. 

Their parenthood aspirations aren’t pipe-dreams. Investing in policies and practices that address economic insecurity in historically oppressed communities can ensure that LGBTQ+ people have the opportunity to build and, crucially, sustain their family. Healthcare policies can be revised to ensure that LGBTQ+ people who need to use ART to build their families get the same coverage and non-LGBTQ+ people. Employers can implement supplement coverage for foster care and adoption costs. Nondiscrimination protections can ensure that LGBTQ+ people living in non-metropolitan areas don’t have to sacrifice necessary paychecks in order to find and access inclusive providers or agencies.

Anna Libertin is the Director of Communications for Family Equality, whose mission is to advance lived and legal equality for LGBTQ+ families and those who wish to form them through building community, changing hearts and minds, and driving policy change.

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