Gender and Sexuality Column

Thompson: New York state ban on infertility treatment discrimination is a bundle of joy for LGBTQ couples

Jacob Greenfeld | Asst. Photo Editor

Gov. Andrew Cuomo said New York state “will always stand up to protect and preserve” access to infertility treatment.

New York state and Gov. Andrew Cuomo recently became the proud parents of a new mandate to health insurers: guaranteed infertility treatment for all, regardless of marital status or sexual orientation.

Cuomo introduced this latest bundle of joy to the public last week and said in a statement that New York state “will always stand up to protect and preserve” a woman’s rights to receive insurance coverage for infertility treatment and make her own reproductive choices.

Guaranteed infertility treatment despite sexual orientation and marital status demonstrates that New York is finally accepting non-traditional images of what parents and family can look like. The order also extends the New York State Department of Financial Services’ definition of infertility to be more inclusive.

Before the rewrite of the definition, the department and the American Society for Reproductive Medicine classified infertility as a “failure to achieve a successful pregnancy after 12 months or more of appropriate, timed unprotected intercourse or therapeutic donor insemination.”

But for Cuomo and his Democratic supporters, this definition and its “intercourse” clause failed to address a major portion of infertility treatment patients: those who are unmarried or in queer relationships.

Since President Donald Trump’s election, the LGBTQ community has faced months of trepidation and fears of reduced health care access, especially for those in the lower and middle classes. This state measure elicited a sigh of relief from a community that is often jeopardized and ostracized by the health care system.

For non-heterosexual and unmarried couples, the mandate was an affirmation of their validity as individuals and the legitimacy of their relationships as equal to their straight counterparts.

New York is one of only 15 states that requires health insurers to cover infertility treatment, and it has further distinguished itself by granting coverage of these treatments in an olive branch to the LGBTQ community. The mandate will release non-heterosexual couples from the economic and emotional burdens that come from paying out of pocket for a treatment that has been made accessible to their straight peers.

Alphonso David, Cuomo’s chief counsel, said it best when he compared the updated definition to the legalization of gay marriage: “Just like we have a definition of marriage that can’t by its language discriminate against people based on who they are,” David told New York Magazine, “you can’t have a definition of infertility that by its language discriminates against people based on who they are or whether or not they’re in a relationship.”

This infertility measure is the latest in a string of health care reforms that are part of Cuomo’s statewide initiative “New York’s Promise to Women: Ever Upward.” Democrats across the country have applauded Cuomo for his proactive measures against Trump-era health care cutbacks, including his mandate to health insurance providers to expand access to contraception and medically necessary abortions.

Cuomo’s efforts to fight a health care system that is not entirely accessible for marginalized groups are a cause for celebration, especially when the United States is in the midst of a politically chaotic era in which minority rights are directly challenged by federal authorities.

The extension of infertility treatment insurance to LGBTQ individuals is not just a cause for celebration, though. It’s a reminder to the current administration and those who subscribe to it that LGBTQ lives are, and ought to be, respected, protected and treated in the same manner as their straight counterparts.

Kelsey Thompson is a sophomore magazine journalism major. Her column appears weekly. She can be reached at katho101@syr.edu.

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