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Transgender man sues fertility clinic for not helping him to get pregnant
January 13, 2014 - Andrea Johnson
Andy Inkster, a transgender man, is suing Baystate Reproductive Medicine in Springhurst, Mass., because it refused to help Inkster get pregnant using donor sperm and in vitro fertilization a few years back.
According to an op ed piece in The New York Times, which can be found at http://www.nytimes.com/2014/01/13/opinion/the-next-frontier-in-fertility-treatment.html?—r=0, Inkster objected to being asked to provide a statement from a therapist that Inkster was psychologically stable and ready to become a parent. Baystate apparently did not require the same thing of other patients. The state's civil rights agency found probable cause that Baystate had discriminated against Inkster. Now the two sides are moving into a "conciliation conference.
Inkster, who began taking testosterone and had breast removal surgery done at age 18, had always wanted to be a parent and still has ovaries and a uterus. Eventually, Inkster found a clinic willing to do the treatment. Inkster conceived a daughter using anonymous donor sperm and gave birth. The Times suggested that it might be disconcerting for people to see a seemingly pregnant man, though Inkster, who just contacted me, said no one was ever disconcerted.
The Times reports that, under Obamacare, it will no longer be legal to discriminate against people who are transgender when it comes to medical care. But will that also include fertility treatments?
The Times piece quotes a study done last year in Belgium that said that a little more than half of transgender men in Belgium wanted to become parents and 38 percent of them would have frozen their eggs if the technology had been available to them. However, there have been many stories in recent years about transgender children, some as young as toddlers, whose parents have allowed them to live as the opposite sex and have arranged for them to receive hormone therapy at very young ages so they never go through puberty. The treatment is supposed to make it easier for them to pass physically as the gender they identify with and make a sex change operation less complicated when they reach 18. But the treatment also destroys their fertility and any chance they have of becoming biological parents.
Inkster is still a biological female and gave birth and is actually the girl's biological mother. Her biological father is a sperm donor. While I don't necessarily object to psychologically healthy trangender, gay or straight people becoming parents in unconventional ways, I also don't know that I want taxpayers to foot the bill. And, given the huge number of transgender people who want to become biological parents, I think that parents and doctors should rethink practices that expose pre-pubescent children to hormonal treatments that will sterilize them before they are mature enough to fully understand what has been done to their bodies. That sort of treatment comes dangerously close to medical child abuse.
What do you think of Inkster's lawsuit?
Inkster has emailed me with some concerns about this piece and I have made some corrections accordingly. Inkster points out that Baystate Reproductive Medicine is located in Springfield, Mass., not Amherst.
Inkster also says it is inappropriate to speculate on what the child calls him and, on second thought, I agree that this was an unfair comment. The Times opinion column did note in general that a male transgender who has a child and had breasts removed as Inkster did might be unable to nurse and that some people might find it disconcerting to see a seemingly pregnant male. There was nothing said about how people reacted during Inkster's particular pregnancy.
Inkster also said in his email to me that toddlers are never given hormone therapy. This is true and the original comment in the blog may have been misleading. I was referring to stories about toddlers who identify as transgender and whose parents are allowing them to live as the opposite gender. In such cases, hormonal therapy generally begins before puberty.
My general opinion on this situation remains the same.
Inkster further states in an e-mail that he is not aware of any provision under Obamacare that would require that fertility treatment be covered. His particular case didn't have anything to do with requiring insurance companies to pay for such fertility treatment, nor did I say it did. The New York Times op-ed did mention the general difficulties that transgender men and women have had getting medical treatment because of their unique circumstances and the options they might have for becoming parents.
I think the main argument against requiring insurance to cover fertility treatment is that it will drive up health care costs and that it is an optional, rather than a necessary, medical procedure. But I do think there's a real possibility that at some point in the future the law might require that such treatments be covered.
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