Why Four Lesbians are Fighting for More Access to Fertility Treatments
Homosexual women in New Jersey don't have the same access to infertility coverage as heterosexual women, due to specific language in the state's rules, according to select legislators and an attorney handling a lawsuit against the commissioner of the New Jersey Department of Banking and Insurance.
The suit from four lesbians in Montclair, North Bergen and Union City alleges New Jersey's infertility insurance law, in effect since 2001, discriminates against their sexual orientation.
In a mandate for insurance companies, infertility is generally demonstrated by a year or two of unprotected sexual intercourse, depending on the woman's age, or the inability to carry a pregnancy to produce a live birth.
"Couples in heterosexual relationships have a very clear path, delineated by the state of New Jersey, to follow in order to access that coverage," said attorney Grace Cathryn Cretcher, who's handling the plaintiffs' case. "New Jersey women in same-sex relationships have really no legal path at all that is protected by the law."
The suit aims to change or overturn New Jersey's "unconstitutional, discriminatory law," Cretcher said; it also seeks financial reimbursement for the plaintiffs' out-of-pocket costs for infertility treatment, including artificial insemination and in vitro fertilization.
According to Cretcher, the state recently moved to dismiss the case, but she's confident in overcoming that motion.
Legislation advanced on Sept. 8 by panels in the state Assembly and Senate would revise New Jersey's current definition of infertility and expand coverage to more families.
“No one should be denied coverage for health services due to their sexual orientation,” said Democratic Assemblywoman Pam Lampitt. “New Jersey has always been on the front lines of the fight for equality, but outdated regulation like this continues to hold us back.”
Under the proposed revision, infertility can simply be determined "by a physician licensed to practice medicine and surgery in this state."