Across the globe, developed countries are experiencing decreasing fertility rates and aging populations. People marry later than in earlier decades, delay childbearing until later in life and have fewer children. One result is an aging population with fewer younger people to support the cost of elder-related government services and fewer workers to care for the elderly.
In the United States, fertility rate numbers have been in steady decline. In 1960, our country’s fertility rate was 3.65 births per woman; in 1970 it was 2.57. And now, the U.S. fertility rate has fallen to 1.71 births per woman. (The U.S. is not the lowest — that “honor” goes to South Korea, which has a fertility rate of 0.9 children per woman.)
The distressing U.S. numbers don’t account separately for the problem of infertility — an issue of concern to Ashkenazi Jews and other minorities which experience a lower fertility rate than the general population. That explains why this past week a long list of national Jewish organizations endorsed a bipartisan congressional resolution declaring that “the United States Government has a responsibility to help examine, create and implement solutions to address and alleviate the problems associated with the disease [of infertility].”
By defining infertility as a disease, Congressional sponsors and their supporters hope to open the door for federally funded research, which could be a game changer for those trying to cope with infertility. Government supported medical research could also lead to programs which will alleviate the backbreaking cost families must now pay for fertility treatment.
The nonbinding House resolution (H. Res. 338) was sponsored by Debbie Wasserman Schultz, a Jewish Democrat from Florida, and Dan Crenshaw, a Texas Republican. Wasserman Schultz has been treated for infertility, making her one of the 12% of women (one in eight) who have received infertility services in their lifetime. It is heartening to see that organizations representing all streams of Judaism have endorsed the resolution, as did Jewish women’s groups, including Hadassah, which has been lobbying for years to classify infertility as a disease and to raise awareness.
While the number of signatories on the resolution is impressive, too many local members of Congress have not signed on. We urge them to do so. And we encourage our readers to share their interest in the issue with their elected representatives. Such efforts could make a difference in whether government research and assistance will be made available to help address infertility issues experienced by members of our community and beyond. As pointed out in H. Res. 338, “regulatory disparities and lack of access to health care specialists cause inequities in the financial burden carried by people who seek diagnostic testing and treatment for infertility, presenting a barrier to health care and better health outcomes.”
We strongly support the bipartisan effort to ensure the availability of infertility-related medical research and the provision of services to those who need it, and hope that Congress will help get it done. It’s the right thing to do. JN