26 Aug 2021 Proposed new law would provide paid leave for IVF loss
A proposed law now before Congress would guarantee parents who undergo failure of fertility treatments such as in vitro fertilization (IVF) or surrogacy, as well as those who lose babies through miscarriage or failed adoptions, have access to paid time off to recover and to grieve.
Despite the fact that some 10 to 15 percent of known pregnancies result in miscarriage, as reported by USA Today, societal attitudes and cultural norms have made such losses a sensitive, even taboo, topic, leaving many bereft parents to suffer in silence and isolation. Similarly, despite the growing numbers of families created today through assisted reproductive technology, many intended parents don’t discuss their fertility status openly, leaving them to grieve privately and alone when a procedure fails. To make the situation worse, there are little information and few resources available to educate the public about these “modern family” challenges and to support bereft parents.
Support Through Loss Act aims to combat stigma of pregnancy loss
Introduced in July by Illinois Senator Tammy Duckworth and Massachusetts Representative Ayanna Presley, the Support Through Loss Act aims to shed light on the issue, combat stigma, and provide real, material help for parents. The law would require covered employers to provide three days of paid leave for parents who have experienced loss through miscarriage, in vitro fertilization or adoption failure, pregnancy or childbirth. The bill also includes $45 million per year for research into the causes of pregnancy loss and authorizes the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to educate the public around pregnancy loss and how it can be treated.
Because there is little existing data on pregnancy loss, funding for research into the incidence and causes is needed to provide the information parents need, Pressley explained in a USA Today interview. “When you've already experienced such a disruptive and painful life event, and you were feeling the impacts of that loss, you're already feeling isolated. And then that can be compounded by the fact that, should you choose to navigate this on your own until you're ready to talk about it, the information is not readily available or accessible…. It's hard to believe that there has not been a much bigger response to something that has destabilized and traumatized.”
The medical profession does not have a clear understanding of the causes of miscarriage and stillbirth, Dana Sussman, deputy executive director of National Advocates for Pregnant Women, told USA Today. Causes range from physical or genetic conditions to social factors such as poverty, lack of prenatal care, and medical discrimination. The lack of reliable data about what causes pregnancy loss has resulted in stigma and blame, Sussman said.
One of the main goals of the bill, which has been referred to the House Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions, is to help remove the stigma and silence associated with pregnancy loss, IVF failure or adoption. “It is my hope that through the Support Through Loss Act, that these families will feel seen,” Pressley said. “That includes those in their journey to start a family, to expand the family—we are naming miscarriage, we're naming surrogacy, fertility treatments. We want to be supportive of whatever your family model, in whatever way that your pregnancy journey, your journey to start or to expand your family, has been disrupted and you've suffered a traumatic loss—that you feel supported. You feel supported by your doctor, you feel supported by your family and community, and that you feel supported by your employer.”
Bill part of effort to modernize Family and Medical Leave Act
According to a representative from Duckworth’s office, the bill is part of a larger effort to “modernize and enhance the entire (Family and Medical Leave Act) framework,” which doesn’t take into consideration a range of pregnancy failures aside from miscarriages, which has led to “a complex and confusing patchwork of bureaucracy and regulations.”
Duckworth, whose two daughters were conceived via IVF, said she questioned whether she was to blame as she dealt with miscarriage and multiple failed IVF procedures. “Am I working too hard? Is it my fault because I waited so late in life to try to have children?
“I remember all the failed IVF cycles, you know, just getting my hopes up and then fail, you know, over and over and over and over again,” Duckworth said in a Newsy interview. “Much like 30 years ago, when we first started talking openly about breast cancer, we need to be openly talking about failed pregnancies.”
One of the greatest features of this proposed legislation is its inclusivity in providing support for parents experiencing the loss of a child, regardless of what means they were using to bring that child into their family. Intended parents are willing to make immense sacrifices time, money and emotion in creating a family through assisted reproduction. Likewise, adoptive parents typically undergo lengthy, arduous procedures and significant expense on their paths to parenthood. When they lose that child they were planning for, when their dreams of parenthood are dashed, or even temporarily postponed, of course they grieve, as any of us would grieve.
This bill not only supports parents in their loss, it shines a light on the fact that, although families today are created in all different ways, in our love for our children—and in our grief when we lose them—we are all more alike than different.
If you are considering becoming a parent using assisted reproductive technology, feel free to contact IFLG's experienced team of legal professionals for informaion on how to ensure your family is legally secure.