Gay couples and women over 40 to receive fertility treatment through NHS

by Edmund Broch
22 May 2012

Same-sex couples and women over 40 will be entitled to free in-vitro fertilisation (IVF) treatment through the National Health Service (NHS), for the first time according to guidelines to be published today.

The recommendations, which puts same-sex couples on par with heterosexual couples when it comes to fertility treatment, is issued by the government watchdog for cost-effective treatment in the NHS, National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE).

Then new guidelines also call on health authorities in England and Wales to fund intra-uterine insemination (IUI), which uses donor sperms to help same-sex couples conceive. If IUI should fail for six cycles in a row, then, they should be considered for the more costly, and medically complex IVF, the guidelines will say.

These consequences follow the implementation of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act, passed by Labour in 2008, which put same-sex parenting and heterosexual parenting on equal footing in the eyes of the law.

That there has been a concomitant increase in demand from gay couples for fertility services is confirmed by figures: for example, in the three years from 2007 to 2010, the number of lesbian couples undergoing IVF nearly trebled from 178 to 417. Till now, gay couples usually had to resort to private treatment, which cost up to £8,000 per couple, with a reduction in the chances of successful conception with increase in age.

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Breathe Papa, Breathe

by Anthony M. Brown –

My two year old is a shaman. Nicholas is the light of my husband’s and my life since he graced us with his presence in 2009. He recently had his first semi-serious fall. I say semi-serious because I don’t have a frame of reference for this, thankfully. He took a tumble and cut his forehead. It was clear that he was going to need stitches and, as he bled on my husband’s shoulder and we ran to get a cab to visit the Urgent Care in our neighborhood, I was beside myself. Until this moment, I didn’t understand just how emotional your child hurting themselves is for the parent.

I was still upset when we arrived at our destination and Nicholas saw my fear. He looked right into my eyes and, with a sweeping hand gesture, said, “Breathe Papa, breathe, breathe.”

I had no choice but to laugh, cry and hug him all at the same time. But I calmed down. And this proud papa can thank his little guru of a toddler for that.

Zach Wahls, His Two Moms, & The Future of Same-Sex Marriage

What today’s US Supreme Court ruling in Astrue v. Capato might mean for children of LGBT parents

May 21, 2012 – by Nancy Polikoff – Beyond (Straight and Gay) Marriage


In a unanimous opinion written by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the US Supreme Court today weighed in on how the Social Security Act defines “child” for purposes of receiving survivor’s benefits when a covered employee dies.  Karen Capato was seeking such benefits for twins born 18 months after the death of her husband, Robert.  The twins were conceived by IVF after Robert’s death using semen he had frozen before this death specifically for that purpose.
Karen claimed the children were entitled to benefits because they inherently met the definition of “child” since they were the biological children of married parents.  The Social Security Administration (SSA) looked to a separate statutory provision and ruled that the determination of eligibility rested in state intestacy law; if the children could inherit from Robert if he died without a will then they were eligible for benefits.  Under the law in Robert’s domicile at the time of his death  — Florida — children conceived post-death do not inherit without a will, so the twins were not Robert’s children for purposes of receiving benefits.
In Astrue v. Capato, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of the SSA.  Although I generally favor expansive distribution of benefits and novel claims as to what makes a parent, I found the opinion satisfying on a number of levels.  First, Karen’s claim was that the children were so obviously Robert’s children that it was inappropriate to look at any other part of the statute, including the intestacy test, for a definition.  Why was this so obvious? Because, Karen argued, they were the biological children of married parents.  I took great pleasure in Justice Ginsburg’s criticism of that argument.  Karen tried to claim that it was unconstitutional to distinguish between children conceived pre- and post-death, but Justice Ginsburg virtually chastised Karen for arguing that the SSA should “eliminate the intestacy test only for biological children of married parents.” (emphasis in original!) Justice Ginsburg clearly did not think highly of Karen asking the Court to distinguish between “children whose parents were married and children whose parents’ liaisons were not blessed by clergy or the State.”

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Same-Sex Parents Lobby Congress For Equal Rights by 5.17,2012

On the edge of the National Mall on Thursday, dozens of moms, dads and kids pose for a group photo framed by the U.S. Capitol. They’re just some of the approximately 700,000 same-sex families across the country, despite laws in some states that make raising children difficult for gay couples. Now, they’ve come to Washington to ask lawmakers to make their lives a little easier.

“Today in the United States, there’s kind of a patchwork of state laws,” says Jennifer Chrisler, herself a same-sex parent and executive director of the Family Equality Council, which organized the lobbying day. Chrisler says public policy toward same-sex families is out of sync with reality.

“The 12 states where [same-sex] couples are most likely to be raising kids are states like Mississippi and Montana and Kentucky and Louisiana,” she says. “And those are the states that actually have some of the worst policy.”

In fact, the highest share of same-sex couples is in Mississippi, which bans gay adoption altogether.

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In Choosing a Sperm Donor, a Roll of the Genetic Dice

May 14, 2012 – New York Times

Sharine and Brian Kretchmar of Yukon, Okla., tried a number of medical treatments to conceive a second child. After a depressing series of failures, a doctor finally advised them to find a sperm donor.

For more than a year, the Kretchmars carefully researched sperm banks and donors. The donor they chose was a family man, a Christian like them, they were told. Most important, he had a clean bill of health. His sperm was stored at the New England Cryogenic Center in Boston, and according to the laboratory’s Web site, all donors there were tested for various genetic conditions.

So the Kretchmars took a deep breath and jumped in. After artificial insemination, Mrs. Kretchmar became pregnant, and in April 2010 she gave birth to a boy they named Jaxon.

But the baby failed to have a bowel movement in the first day or so after birth, a sign to doctors that something was wrong. Eventually Jaxon was rushed to surgery. Doctors returned with terrible news for the Kretchmars: Their baby appeared to have cystic fibrosis.

“We were pretty much devastated,” said Mrs. Kretchmar, 33, who works as a nurse. “At first, we weren’t convinced it was cystic fibrosis, because we knew the donor had been tested for the disease. We thought it had to be something different.”

But genetic testing showed that Jaxon did carry the genes for cystic fibrosis. Mrs. Kretchmar had no idea she was a carrier, but was shocked to discover that so, too, was the Kretchmars’ donor. His sperm, they would later discover, was decades old, originally donated at a laboratory halfway across the country and frozen ever since. Whether it was properly tested is a matter of dispute.

Sadly, the Kretchmars’ experience is not unique. In households across the country, children conceived with donated sperm are struggling with serious genetic conditions inherited from men they have never met. The illnesses include heart defects, spinal muscular atrophy, neurofibromatosis type 1 and fragile X syndrome, the most common form of mental retardation in boys, among many others.

Hundreds of cases have been documented, but it is likely there are thousands more, according to Wendy Kramer, founder of the Donor Sibling Registry, a Web site she started to help connect families with children who are offspring of the same sperm donor.



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Gay on TV: It’s All in the Family

May 8, 2012
New York Times, By

On “Glee” this spring, a transgender character named Unique is competing in a sing-off. On “Grey’s Anatomy,” Arizona and Callie are adjusting to married life, having been pronounced “wife and wife” last year.

On “Modern Family,” the nation’s most popular television show, Cameron and his partner Mitchell are trying to adopt a second child.

What’s missing? The outrage.

The cultural battlefield of television has changed markedly since the 1990s, when conservative groups and religious figures objected to Ellen DeGeneres coming out and “Will & Grace” coming on.

Today, it’s rare to hear a complaint about shows like “Modern Family” or the drama “Smash,” which has five openly gay characters, or the sitcom “Happy Endings,” which, against stereotype, has a husky and lazy gay male character.

To the contrary. Mitt Romney is known to be a fan of “Modern Family,” and a Catholic group gave it a media award this month.

Next week in New York the major networks will announce a slate of new shows, including a sitcom on NBC that features a gay couple and their surrogate. The title: “The New Normal.”

At a time when gay rights are re-emerging as an election year issue — in part because of Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s stated support for gay marriage on Sunday — activists and academics say that depictions of gay characters on television play a big role in making viewers more comfortable with their gay, lesbian and transgender neighbors.

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For Obama, It’s About the Children

May 12, 2012, 4:43 pm

New York Times


In a historic interview last week, President Obama announced his support for same-sex marriage. As he discussed his journey toward that position, the president sounded many familiar themes, like the importance of distinguishing between civil and religious marriage and of living up to American ideals of fairness. At the core of his narrative, however, was a relatively novel element — an affirmation of gay couples as parents.

The president repeatedly attributed his “evolution” to his contact not only with gay couples but also with their children. He described thinking about staff members “who are incredibly committed, in monogamous relationships, same-sex relationships, who are raising kids together.” He discussed meeting same-sex couples and seeing “how caring they are, how much love they have in their hearts — how they’re taking care of their kids.”

Later in the interview, he wondered whether opponents of same-sex marriage had “had the experience that I have had in seeing same-sex couples who are as committed, as monogamous, as responsible — as loving a group of parents as any heterosexual couple that I know. And in some cases, more so.” Indeed, except for his marquee declaration that “same-sex couples should be able to get married,” the president never spoke of “gay and lesbian couples” or “same-sex couples” without alluding to the children of those couples.

The president’s invocation of children as a reason to support same-sex marriage is striking. His position may be controversial among some gay individuals, who, like some straight individuals, do not want their right to marry to be linked in any way to procreation. Yet a strong justification for the president’s stance can be found in the argument it implicitly seeks to rebut. Traditionally, the well-being of children has appeared squarely on the other side of the ledger, functioning as the prime secular argument against same-sex marriage.

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The Real Lesson of North Carolina’s Amendment 1 by Kenyon Farrow, May 11, 2012

President Obama’s public support of same-sex marriage helped upright the frowns of many LGBT marriage activists. The president’s endorsement came the day after North Carolina voters passed a constitutional amendment to ban recognition of any form of relationship that is not a legally married hetereosexual couple. While the passing of Amendment 1 may seem like a big blow to same sex-marriage activists, the grassroots organizing that came together to fight it may actually be the most important win for North Carolina, and a sign that activists in the state are building a better social justice infrastructure for the future.

What’s most important for the gay marriage advocates to remember is that Amendment 1 was never just about same sex marriage—that was already illegal in North Carolina. The bill was written and heavily promoted by Alliance Defense Fund, a right-wing legal advocacy group, and bans all legal protections for unmarried people. It ends people’s ability to get health insurance under domestic partnership plans. The bill even threatens the rights of unmarried parents to visit their children.

While this has been true in many of the now-30 constitutional amendments at the state level, the LGBT organizations have failed, in their desire to win “marriage equality,” to get ahead of the right-wing message to really paint it for what it is: a religious conservative policy agenda to remove anything resembling state support for “inappropriate” gender, romantic or sexual relationships. That includes, but is not limited to, same-sex marriage.

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My Family’s Reaction to President Obama’s Marriage Statement