The violent and racist killing of George Floyd by the hands, or rather the knee, of a Minneapolis police officer while his colleagues looked on exposed the distrust Black Americans have long held with so-called trusted institutions across many sectors. Law enforcement is one of many institutions in which Black people have lost faith, and as a result, they suffer in silence while depriving themselves of the aid and support others receive for solvable problems that disproportionately impact their lives.
Stereotypes and stigma play a vital role, as well, particularly when it comes to accessing health care. And when it comes to reproductive health, Black women and men more often hide their problems, delay seeking help or abandon accessing healthcare options altogether because they can’t afford them. It’s an issue that At-Large Council member Christina Henderson, chair of the D.C. Council’s Committee on Health, is seeking to address through legislation that will make access to diagnoses and treatment for the disproportionate number of District residents experiencing infertility.
Infertility impacts men and women. According to the National Institutes of Health, infertility impacts around 12% of women, but Black women may be twice as likely to experience infertility compared with white women; and they are 50% less likely to seek out care. On the other hand, Black men reportedly are less likely to donate sperm leading to a significant sperm shortage and a lack of choices for Black women seeking to have a child that looks Black like them.
The Expanding Access to Fertility Treatment Amendment Act of 2022 would require an individual health plan, group plan, or health insurer offering health insurance coverage through Medicaid and the D.C. Healthcare Alliance program to provide coverage for the diagnosis and treatment of infertility.
For D.C.’s Black community, this bill is a ray of hope for those who want and plan to grow their families but have been unable to do so for medical and financial reasons. While there will be some coverage limitations, the bill is scheduled to go into effect for Medicaid and the D.C. Health Alliance recipients in January 2024. It allows D.C. to join 19 states, including Maryland, to provide fertility insurance coverage for women who need it.