Hawaii LGBT Couples Push For Equal Access To Fertility Therapy Available To Heterosexual Couples


Members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community in Hawaii are campaigning for a legislation change concerning equal access to in vitro fertilization procedures.

The new bill would make male same-sex couples eligible for funded fertility treatments that require a surrogate mother.

Under state law, financial help for this procedure is only given to married heterosexual couples, while LGBT families must dig deep into their pockets if they wish to conceive a child through a surrogacy program.

If the new legislation passes, Hawaii could become the first state to fund surrogacy fertility treatments for all its citizens irrespective of their sexual orientation, compelling insurance companies to cover IVF procedures for more couples.

This initiative would greatly benefit male same-sex, who can only conceive through surrogacy.

"It's great to see that Hawaii is taking the lead," said Barbara Collura, leader of Resolve, a national organization advocating for access to fertility treatments.

Surrogate Mothers To Be Covered By Insurance

IVF is an expensive medical intervention which in Hawaii — just like in seven other states — is only covered by insurance if a woman uses sperm from her spouse to fertilize the implanted egg.

This means that only married heterosexual couples can apply for funding for this procedure. Because of the way the legislation is formulated, it excludes not only the LGBT community, but single mothers as well.

The currently pending bill removes the prerequisite that the egg and sperm come from a married couple, and is formulated to include surrogacy among the covered IVF procedures. The latter is a premiere in any state legislation, according to Collura.

Not many couples looking to build a family can afford to consider surrogacy IVF. One male couple, Sean Smith and husband Kale Taylor, paid over $20,000 in Hawaii for this procedure that allowed them to conceive their son.

Collura states that since same-sex marriage is now legal, all efforts must be made to address the inequities these couples face regarding access to fertility treatments.

Support For The LGBT Community

The new bill has received a lot of backing until now, with the American Civil Liberties Union of Hawaii, the Hawaii Civil Rights Commission and the Democratic Party of Hawaii strongly endorsing it. The initiative passed the state Senate and is up for a vote in the House this week.

The only opposition it encountered so far was from Kaiser Permanente Hawaii due to concerns about raised costs. Citing complex legal issues and medical risks associated with donor eggs and surrogates, the company has asked lawmakers to remove them from the bill, pointing out these problems could lead to additional medical procedures that would also require coverage.

Most state mandates offer insurance reimbursement only for a certain number of IVF trials or to couples who have struggled with infertility for several years.

Last year, Maryland changed IVF legislation to no longer require the use of a husband's sperm. Although the initiative helped lesbian couples get access to fertility treatments, male same-sex couples couldn't benefit from the amendment, since it didn't cover surrogates.

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