The Next “Hobby Lobby”: Mandating IVF Coverage

The most cursory survey of the American mass media in July 2014 would have you believe that millions of women are being denied basic medical care and fundamental rights are under total assault because … they can’t get somebody else to buy their abortifacients. Indeed, the U.S. Senate—whose legislative productivity this year suggests it has been the victim of an Obamacare death panel—managed to rush a bill overturning Hobby Lobby to the floor, without committee hearing or public input … only to fail at the hands of Republicans.

Well, has the New York Times given us a glimpse of Hobby Lobby II?

The July 26 issue carries a story whose gist is that government and private insurance does not adequately cover in vitro fertilization (IVF).

The story opens with the usual human interest story: a 27-year-old nurse complains, after suffering four miscarriages and her husband divorcing her, that “‘I decided I am going to be a mom, whether I am on my own or whether I had a partner by my side.’”

Since “wishin’ don’t make it so”—especially when it comes to parenthood—not having that partner could pose a problem, though nothing a little withdrawal from the sperm bank can’t solve. The bigger problem, though, seemed to be costs: a single round of IVF costs $15,000-$25,000, and “her health insurance, through the California exchange” doesn’t pay for it.

The article then goes on with the usual litany of complaints: only 27 percent of large company-provided insurance plans cover IVF; only 15 states require plans to have an “infertility coverage” component; 4 of the 15 limit mandate to IVF using artificial insemination by husband only; some policies “exclude gay couples and single women” by “defin[ing] infertility as an inability to become pregnant through sexual intercourse”; some states require a documented period of infertility or waiting periods before coverage kicks in; not covering IVF now paves the way for pregnancy complications later; and “the Affordable Care Act did little to expand infertility coverage.”

Let’s consider what’s at issue:

Implicit in this argument is the ongoing divorce of sex from marriage. The wisdom of generations—that a man and woman should fall in love, marry, and have children as a gift from God—is rejected as so much patriarchical enslavement to biology. Bringing children into the world has nothing inherently to do with being married: our 27-year-old nurse is determined to have a baby, “partner or not.” Notice her word choice: she does not even say “husband or not,” but “partner or not.” Parenthood is now to become a unilateral decision; while previous generations might have only dreamed of Amazon-like reproduction, modern technology has now made it possible. Unilateral maternity, of course, was already endorsed in Roe v. Wade and ratified in Planned Parenthood v. Danforth (declaring unconstitutional Missouri’s spousal consent requirement). This “solution” is, of course, essential to cementing the “achievement” of “same-sex marriage,” transgenderism, cohabitation, etc.: to be “human,” man has to transcend his biology.

Advocates of unilateral parenthood have no qualms about ensconcing their view in public policy. The Times article takes it as a given that social policy is just a little behind the curve on this issue, and that eventually—by putting money behind it—IVF will just become standard “treatment.” The article appears in a series “Your Money”—but it’s our money (insurers, exchanges, the public) that will be enlisted to pay for it.

Society has no interest in how society is sustained. The privatization of marriage and parenthood have become so complete in American law that society is seen as having no interest in how members come into it or how society is sustained. This is not just a question of how people are born but of the whole ethos of family life in society. No serious social science research disputes that children need intact families to develop normally; but the current American approach to family policy avoids engaging with that truth.

This is all about adults, anyway. Deliberately making an orphan, i.e., a child bereft of a mother and father, is in principle what IVF does. But IVF has nothing to do with children, except as products manufactured according to parental desires. It has everything to do with adult wants. As Zbigniew Stawrowski notes in his new book, The Clash of Civilizations or Civil War , today’s “sleek barbarians” use the language of tradition (“liberty,” “justice”) to create a new ethic where the strong gain the force of law to effect their desires on the weak, in this case, children. The comments to Times articles are always telling: “I am 40, single, and ready to be a mom.” So, of course, that means she can and should.

Of course, the infertility “treatment” does nothing about the infertility. The biggest paradox, of course, is that the “treatment”—in vitro fertilization—leaves the pathology intact: the woman was infertile before and remains infertile after. What IVF does (like much of contemporary gynecology) is provide wish fulfillment: with no objective notion of healthy or pathological, normal or abnormal, pregnancy and fertility are neither good nor bad, but depend wholly on the will of the woman.

The life dimension is not mentioned at all. The fact that IVF involves manipulation, and typically destruction, of prenatal life does not enter into the Times’ discussion at all. While the article admits that women sometimes undertake multiple pregnancies as a result of IVF, the only downside the Times reports is that women often do this to ensure success because of the expense of even one IVF cycle. The article concludes that this is bad policy, not because lives will be lost, but because it is short-sighted—multiple pregnancies are prone to complications, so failure to pay for IVF up front means incurring larger post-complication costs later. The ethical life issues—multiple fertilization and destruction of embryos, consignment to cryopreservation (freezing), buying, selling, and donating of frozen embryos, use for experimental purposes, selective abortion in multiple pregnancies—receive (like abortifacients in the Hobby Lobby case) no mention, even though under an insurance coverage mandate, employers could be forced to pay for this.

Expect word games to follow. Any discussion to force funding of IVF under insurance policies will undoubtedly use the tug-at-the-heart term “infertility treatment,” while scrupulously avoiding the prenatal implications. One area where a real problem could arise (and abortionists hoisted on their own petard) is over “fertilization.” The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) has unilaterally redefined “fertilization” as when an embryo implants into the uterine wall (up to 21 days after fertilization occurs)—so, what is in the Petri dish, an embryo as a result of fertilization, or an embryo waiting to be fertilized by implantation?

Medical resource issues also arise. In a world where medical resources are limited and Obamacare likely to generate rationing, are insurance dollars best spent subsidizing procedures that pose socially controversial moral and ethical issues, destroy human life, and do nothing to overcome the pathology they “treat”? Or is this another case where the generally privileged who can afford to produce children outside of marriage can add “baby” to their list of career accomplishments?

Recently, Jennifer Lahl of the Center for Bioethics & Culture in California completed a trilogy of films about the artificial reproduction industry and its effect on women and children. “Breeders,” “Eggsploitation” and “Anonymous Father’s Day” document the inhumane dimension of this multi-million dollar business masquerading as medicine. They’re worth watching … before artificial reproduction comes to an insurance policy near you.

(Photo Credit: Mark Boster/Los Angeles Times)

John M. Grondelski


John M. Grondelski (Ph.D., Fordham) is former associate dean of the School of Theology, Seton Hall University, South Orange, NJ. All views expressed herein are exclusively his own.

  • the Heretick

    When we break down
    everything down to constituent parts, the whole is lost. When all is equal
    nothing is of value, therein lies our problem, people become ‘collateral
    damage,’ resources, no different than a tree.

    The commodification of human flesh.

  • Guest

    A great piece. As it points out language tends to control the narrative and deform people’s consciences. Much of what we call “medicine” and “healthcare” is neither. We have amoral glorified technicians getting highly paid to manipulate life.

  • eddiestardust

    Why didn’t the lady try to adopt?

    • Objectivetruth

      Ego. Hubris. Narcissism. Wanted a child manufactured of its own biological material that looked like her.

      • eddiestardust

        I think that is a little harsh though. My first cousin finally adopted.

        • Objectivetruth

          Nope, it’s not harsh. Children are a gift, not a right. Not something to manufactured. Even though she had the desire for a child ( a good “ends), she shouldn’t play god and use immoral means to achieve the good end she desired (IVF, the creation of multiple humans in a Petri dish.)

        • Objectivetruth

          Google “donum vitae” and “dignitas personae”, the Church’s teachings on IVF, surrogacy, and the dignity of the human person. Extremely clear and beautiful writings on the subject.

        • msmischief

          Consider her stated reason: “I am going to be a mom,”

          The child, and the child’s well-being, doesn’t even appear. What a child is is an instrument to make her a mother.

          Heaven help this kid if she doesn’t find motherhood what she expected. It’s the child’s excuse for existence, and it therefore follows that the child is being negligent if she doesn’t get it.

          • Objectivetruth

            Buyers’s remorse. The child is viewed as a commodity, something to order up to the customer’s satisfaction. Single/lesbian women like herself are very keen on the physical characteristics of the sperm donor. Apparently, there is a man in California that as a handsome young man in college made many sperm donations to the local sperm bank for brewskie money. Because of his desireable genetic characteristics, many women requested his sperm for their own IVF procedures. Years later, he apparently has as many as 500 children that he has never met. And 500 children with a father they never met, and siblings that might be sitting on the bus next to their brother or sister, and never know it.

            • DE-173

              And 500 children with a father they never met, and siblings that might be sitting on the bus next to their brother or sister, and never know it.

              And concentrated in a an area, with a certain unappreciated risk becoming “involved”.

              Imagine finding out in genealogy research that you were married to a half-sibling or cousin.

          • DE-173

            The child will probably be required to address her as “Mommy Dearest”.

  • Steve Frank

    I expect this issue to really pick up steam once SSM is legalized by the Supreme Court. This will get framed as an “equality” issue. If insurance companies must cover the maternity care costs involved with having a child naturally (which is how it happens 99.99% of the time for heterosexual couples), then in the name of “fairness” and “equality” insurance companies must also be mandated to cover over the costs for IVF for gay couples, or so the pro-gay activists will argue. Of course natural law has already settled the question of equality: as arrangements, heterosexual couples and homosexual couples are not equal. Only one of those arrangements can produce new life. But don’t expect that to matter in a culture that bows to the twin gods of eros and radical egalitarianism, biology and natural law be damned.

    • eddiestardust

      I think you are right about the gays…

      • Steve Frank

        It’s already happening. California passed a bill last year mandating coverage for “infertility” treatments for gay couples.

        Just remember…anytime you want to know what this entire country will look like 10 years from now, just look at whatever is going on in California today.

    • Keep the good fight

      The 14th Constitutional Amendment (the “equality” clause that originally pertained to post-Civil War slavery issues) has been hijacked by the “progressives” of the Supreme Court who hate the longstanding legal basis of Natural Law. Their twisted use of the 14th Amendment has & will continue to cause much harm to American society, true marriage, true sexuality & other significant issues. (Yet these same “progressive” Justices will conveniently ignore the “equality clause of the 14th” when it comes to rightly applying it to unborn human life, like in Roe vs. Wade). Their notion of “equality under the law” is so twisted it’s not funny. They’ve taken this noble Christian-based legal principle & twisted it to mean pretty much entitlement. When progressives say “equality” & “fairness”, they mean Entitlement to things contrary to nature- entitlement to materialistic things.

  • DE-173

    If you haven’t read Aldous Huxley’s “Brave New World” lately, read it again. If you don’t have a copy, spend five bucks for the paperback. The all powerful state, commodification of human beings, sexualization of children and destruction of the family are in full court press. Now all we need is extracorporeal gestation.

    • fredx2

      ”One by one the eggs were transferred from their test-tubes to the larger containers; deftly the peritoneal lining was slit, the morula dropped into place, the saline solution poured . . . and already the bottle had passed on through an opening in the wall, slowly on into the Social Predestination Room.” Aldous Huxley, ”Brave New World”

      And now:

      The Artificial Womb Is Born And The World of the Matrix begins”

      The artificial womb exists. In Tokyo, researchers have developed a technique called EUFI — extrauterine fetal incubation. They have taken goat fetuses, threaded catheters through the large vessels in the umbilical cord and supplied the fetuses with oxygenated blood while suspending them in incubators that contain artificial amniotic fluid heated to body temperature.

      Yoshinori Kuwabara, chairman of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Juntendo University in Tokyo, has been working on artificial placentas for a decade. His interest grew out of his clinical experience with premature infants, and as he writes in a recent abstract, ”It goes without saying that the ideal situation for the immature fetus is growth within the normal environment of the maternal organism.”

      • DE-173


        • Fred

          It goes without saying … truer words ever spoken.

  • fredx2

    This is the great problem with socialized medicine. Every decision – every decision – becomes a political issue. We burn up time and news cycles deciding piddly little things that should never become part of the public debate. Should cancer victims taking chemo get a wig paid for? And on and on and on. So, there is no time for the public to think about things like the massacre of Christians in Mosul, they have to worry about every item that might be covered under a medical insurance policy. Is it just, is it unjust blah blah blah. Look at the British papers – constant scandals about the treatment or non treatment or half baked treatment or somebody should be getting something free. Now, it is all a public issue, since the government runs it all,

    • Fred

      Should tobacco users get new lungs, should marijuana users get psychological treatment for their schizophrenia, should heroin users get free needles, etc. Don’t worry though, the Independent Payment Advisory Board political appointees from the Unaffordable Care Act will act fairly and prudently in weeding out undesirables for non-treatment, or possibly even opponents of the administration. Just kidding, that wouldn’t happen here. I wonder why they ask if you own a gun, what your sexual orientation is and how often you have sex, enroll you to vote (do they ask party affiliation?). Isn’t it grand to be in control … of you.

      • DE-173

        They’ll end up paying for perfectly avoidable things, like STD’s because sexual libertinism is part and parcel of the secular left and they’ll spend any amount of money to sweep the consequences of their ideas under the rug.

        Meanwhile, a 99 year old woman in a nursing home, exhibiting the rejection of food common in dementia patients and who loses almost 30 pounts in six weeks creates a situation where a nurse presents the implantation of a feeding tube as “merely delaying the inevitable”.

    • DE-173

      “This is the great problem with socialized medicine. Every decision – every decision – becomes a political issue. We burn up time and news cycles deciding piddly little things that should never become part of the public debate. ”
      And this is why it’s so easy to shout “healthcare for all” for people who don’t understand that the law of unintended consequences.
      Once costs are socialized, society (aka, the state) looks for ways to minimize costs. The manny state is born and petty tyrants like former New York Mayor, Mike Bloomberg feel perfectly righteous dictating how much soda you can put in a cup.

  • Ruth Rocker

    This is not at all surprising. Those who control the language control the discussion. This is why abortion is called “pro-choice” rather that murder or infanticide. This is why the homomafia uses words like “love” and “equality” to mask their agenda to make an unnatural, perverted lifestyle (and it’s actions) be seen as normal and to make sure that everyone agrees with it (or else!).

    There are thousands, if not millions, of children waiting to be adopted. It is sheer selfish egotism that insists that motherhood can only be accomplished if birth is involved.

  • LeMayzing

    Also, isn’t one of the arguments for covering contraceptives (and abortion) that these are cheaper and safer options for women than going through pregnancy and childbirth?

    Now we are going to fund IVF PLUS childbirth? In essence adding significant additional cost AND risk to the equation? How does that make sense? How does that make insurance more affordable and available for everyone?

  • Madame George

    Children being a ‘gift from god’ isn’t wisdom, but a belief based on superstition. What good do generations of such wisdom bestow upon humanity if the underlying premise is bunk?

  • DerekDuckDisQus

    The Democratic Party controlled U.S. Senate only “managed to rush a bill overturning Hobby Lobby to the floor, without committee hearing or public input ” for the sole purpose of making the Democrat Party look good to the feminist lobbies and keep the fundraising. It is a mystery how the Left can tell a lie enough times that it becomes truth to their followers.

  • thank God for med. advancement

    shame on you… Diverting attention away from the issue of affording treatment for pregnancy loss and infertility to politics, while many women and men of faith are seeking medical care for these devastating diseases of the reproductive system. Adoption and infertility treatments are huge financial burdens– so “just adopting” isn’t always an option either. My reproductive endocrinologist is a wonderful Christian man who God has given passion and knowledge to help couples become families. Shame on all of your ignorant, bigoted comments… When your wife, daughter, or sister suffers from infertility or pregnancy loss, I hope you have more compassion regarding the treatment for this devastating disease. Thank goodness our Lord is a God of grace, mercy, and forgiveness.