Update the 40 yr old Pregnancy Discrimination Act to Include Infertility and IVF! (USA)
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Statistics from the CDC, NIH, and WHO show that 1 in 8 women struggle with infertility, and around 25% of pregnancies end in miscarriage. Women experiencing infertility have depression rates 2-3x higher than their fertile counterparts. Yet, the millions of women facing these struggles in the United States have no guaranteed legal protection from workplace discrimination. We are held back in our careers, accused of “needing too much time off,” or “not being focused on the job,” and sometimes even fired, all for trying to have a family. It’s absolutely shameful. The Pregnancy Discrimination Act is 40 years old the Family and Medical Leave Act is 25 years old. They both need to change with the time. Protections for those undergoing infertility treatment need to be included.
To prove a point, I will share facts and statistics as well as my own personal experiences with workplace discrimination. My hope is that after reading this petition, you will show support to the 12.5% of women— your daughter, sister, wife, coworker or friend— who are fighting a silent battle.
WHY THIS IS IMPORTANT TO ME: I'm 30 years old, I have my bachelor’s degree, I work full-time, and I’ve been married to my best friend for 11 years. I'm your daughter, sister, friend, coworker. By age 21, I'd had my first miscarriage. When I was 22, I’d hit the 12-month infertility benchmark. By age 23, I was diagnosed with Endometriosis. My husband and I scrimped and saved for years to be able to afford infertility treatments and further testing because it wasn’t covered under our health insurance. We’ve been through it all—painful tests, surgeries, timed intercourse with Clomid, IUI, IVF, and FET. We’ve lost 3 very loved and wanted babies to miscarriage, and more through failed embryo transfers.
During my career, I have experienced disgusting displays of workplace discrimination. I have been asked during job interviews whether I was pregnant and whether I had children. Superiors have given me a hard time and called me “undedicated” and “unreliable” for needing to take a day off for an insemination or embryo transfer, while everyone else was allowed to call out sick for the flu or colds. I’ve been told I’m “not trying to be part of the team” for not wanting to go to coworkers’ baby showers. A few months ago, when I was at work, bleeding through a miscarriage, my boss told me I needed to forget about it and move on with my life. One company told me that prior to offering me the position, they had “Facebook creeped” me to make sure I didn’t have kids, because they didn’t want to hire a parent. I was even fired in December 2017 just a few days after telling my boss I was having a miscarriage, even though I’d never been disciplined or reprimanded prior to that. In fact, both the general manager and the owner of the company had told me several times that I was doing a good job and thanked me for going above and beyond my job duties. To my shock and disgust, I have learned that although this behavior is very slimy, most of it is perfectly legal because infertility does not fall into a protected status.
I’m not alone. Women are afraid to talk about their fertility struggles for reasons such as the ones I just listed. Because of the current laws, a pregnant woman is protected, but someone who wants to be pregnant is fair game. Because of the current laws, women get to take 3 months off from work for having babies, but women who need a couple of days off for fertility treatments don't qualify for FMLA leave. This has to change.
INFERTILITY FACTS / INFO: It seems like everyone I meet has a story about their aunt's friend's hairdresser's next door neighbor's daughter who went through IVF, but not many people seem to know what IVF actually is. There are many misconceptions about infertility, so let’s clear some of them up. Many people think the terms “IVF” and “infertility treatments” are interchangeable, but they aren't. Infertility treatments include an array of procedures, not just IVF. Some of these procedures are quite simple and others are very scientific and invasive.
Of course, before a woman can go through any infertility treatments, she has to go through testing to determine the reason(s) for the infertility. This can’t all be done in one day. Often, these appointments have to be done days (or even weeks) apart, based on the woman’s menstrual period. These tests usually include:
- Several vaginal ultrasounds
- Hysterosalpingography (HSG)
- Saline infusion sonohysterography (SIS)
- Genetic screening
- Chromosomal karyotyping
Some of these tests, such as bloodwork and ultrasounds, are quick and easy. Others, such as the HSG and SIS, are very invasive and painful. Many women undergoing these diagnostic procedures need to take the remainder of the day off to rest because of the pain and cramping. They can’t use FMLA for it, so their only option is to use a sick day.
Once an underlying cause has been determined, the fertility doctor can move forward with the best course of treatment. IVF is not always the right choice and is rarely the first choice. Infertility treatments can include:
- Timed intercourse with or without an ovarian stimulant, such as Clomid
- Intrauterine insemination (IUI)
- In-vitro Fertilization (IVF)
- Frozen Embryo Transfer (FET)
Many couples start with the simpler options of timed intercourse with or without ovarian stimulation (such as Clomid) or intrauterine insemination (IUI). If these simple procedures don’t work, or if the doctor feels it would be wise to skip them altogether, couples move on to the much more advanced procedures of In-vitro Fertilization (IVF) and subsequent Frozen Embryo Transfers (FET). Most couples do not get lucky on the first try. Most couples go through multiple rounds of fertility treatments, lasting months or even years, before having a child.
During any of these procedures, the female patient is expected to attend several doctor’s appointments where her uterus and ovaries are checked via internal ultrasound, and her hormones are monitored through bloodwork. For a patient going through IUI, an additional day is needed for the actual insemination procedure, plus she is advised to “take it easy” for a few days after. For a patient going through IVF, an actual surgery is performed to retrieve eggs from the ovarian follicles, and a day off is required. Then, for the embryo transfer, the patient is advised to take the day off and take it easy for a few days to encourage implantation. Sometimes, complications arise and more time is needed.
Furthermore, the timing of all of these procedures is completely fluid and unpredictable. So, it’s not as though a woman can request to use vacation time in advance. Often, she won’t know she needs a day off until the day before. And what about the women who live a great distance from their fertility clinic, where even a simple blood draw is a 3-hour adventure?
Those are only the in-office procedures. Behind the scenes, a woman going through IUI, IVF, and FET will be taking daily hormone injections, pills, and vaginal suppositories. Her ovaries are swollen and sore, and everyone in the IVF world knows a girl’s pants won’t button during IVF; most of us live in yoga pants and baggy t-shirts. The side effects of these medicines are unbelievable and include hot flashes, mood swings, weight gain, acne, hair loss, and, very rarely, a life-threatening condition called Ovarian Hyperstimulation Syndrome (OHSS), which I personally had.
Then there are the psychological factors to consider, like what is a woman supposed to do when she gets devastating news? Stay busy with work and try not to think about it? A miscarriage is a loss. A failed cycle is a loss. But in the eyes of the world (thanks to abortion) we don’t lose “actual” children, and therefore don’t get bereavement leave.
We go through all of this, but NONE of it qualifies for the protections of FMLA or PDA. It’s 2018. We need to wake up. These outdated laws need to be updated to provide protections for this very strong, but often silently suffering chunk of the American workforce. Women need to be allowed to use FMLA leave for infertility treatments. It should be illegal to fire or refuse to promote someone because of her efforts to have a family. By signing this petition, you are advocating for the 1 in 8, for the 7.4 million women experiencing infertility. You are telling congress, “We need change, NOW!”
Thank you for your time and support!
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