Companies looking to attract and keep loyal employees often offer perks to sweeten their appeal. Fertility benefits have been one of those perks, and now more than ever, companies are making them completely comprehensive for everyone, especially the LGBTQ community.
Having children, outside of a heterosexual coupling, has historically been difficult for LGBTQ people. Ignorance, prejudice, and even the law have put restrictions on everything from being a single parent, to being an unmarried couple with children, to being “allowed” to adopt. While the national attitude has improved, it still has a long way to go.
Now, many companies hire specialists to shape benefits. And LGBT infertility benefits providers like WINFertility and Progyny help companies steer a path to families for all employees.
“Sixty-three percent of LGBTQ Millennials aged 18-35 are considering expanding their families by becoming parents for the first time, or by having more children,” Peter Nieves, WINFertility Chief Commercial Officer tells Parentology. “Offering a truly inclusive benefit that supports an entire employee population is crucial for today’s employers to attract top talent.”
Sometimes Infertility Involves Circumstances
Many fertility benefits are offered only after infertility has been diagnosed, through a doctor’s examination and invasive testing (the World Health Organization (WHO) considers infertility an actual disease). But, hopeful LGBTQ parents might be perfectly fertile, just not with one another. In this case, the definition of “infertility” and fertility benefits, needs to be expanded.
“Infertility is often defined as not being able to get pregnant after 12 months (or six months, depending on the age of the woman) of regular, unprotected sexual intercourse. This definition assumes a heterosexual relationship, and is used by many insurance companies to determine treatment coverage,” Nieves explained.
Insurance companies can choose to define it differently.
“Some use a broader, more inclusive definition of infertility — social infertility, a term that accommodates people who want to conceive, but aren’t able to engage in sexual intercourse for a variety of reasons, including lack of an opposite-sex partner or being part of a same-sex partnership,” Nieves says. “ Social infertility is shaped by a person’s relationships and circumstances rather than a purely physiological diagnosis. Though it is possible to be both socially infertile and physiologically infertile.”
An example of an LGBTQ-specific procedure is reciprocal IVF (a procedure that Progyny covered recently for a lesbian couple), in which one woman’s egg is fertilized and implanted into her partner’s uterus. It’s a way for both women to play a part in the pregnancy through genetics and carrying the baby to term.
Unfortunately, prejudice runs deep without benefits protections. A 2018 content analysis in Reproductive Biomedicine and Society found that, out of 547 websites for infertility clinics, about 62% do not directly advertise to or welcome gay men as patients. About 42% of surrogacy agencies gave gay men the cold shoulder as well.
“A minority of gay-friendly clinics and agencies, which cluster geographically, actively recruit gay men, creating a limited but niche market,” the study found. “The unequal recruitment of gay men as infertility clients reflects how normative ideas about gender, sexuality and social class are reproduced in the infertility industry. This, in turn, may impact gay men’s procreative consciousness and decision-making about parenting, and exacerbate inequalities around their access to intentional genetic parenthood.”
Another 2018 study in the Reproductive Biomedicine and Society found this shunning of the gay male infertility market had repercussions quite similar to other reproductive movements, citing “…by considering two driving forces behind gay male assisted reproduction – social norms favouring biological family formation and the need for family security – I ultimately conclude that a basis for solidarity exists between gay men and reproductive justice movements. That basis is a concept like ‘procreative liberty’.
Obviously, LGBTQ prospective parents need inclusion in their employer’s fertility policies, which is exactly what WINFertility counsels its clientele; it’s simply good business.
“Employers have the power to offer inclusive benefits that go beyond the medical policy and decide how broadly the benefits are to be offered. They can waive the definition of infertility and cover the costs of fertility treatment without preauthorization. Inclusive, comprehensive family building benefits can include fertility preservation like egg or sperm freezing, surrogacy, and adoption benefits,” Nieves says. “Offering comprehensive benefits is a strong recruiting tool and recognizes the importance of LGBTQ employees, single people, and heterosexual couples to your company.”
An Uncertain National Landscape for LGTBQ Family Rights
While gay marriage is now the law of the land, parental rights are still being fought for (and restricted) in many states.
There are bright spots: in Michigan, a recent settlement, faith-based adoption agencies that are government-funded will no longer be able to discriminate against LGBTQ families and individuals because of religious objections. This ruling gives prospective LGBTQ foster and adoptive parents more avenues for family building.
But, at least nine states have laws on the books allowing for discrimination based on religious preferences when it comes to adoption. This discrimination ranges from LGBTQ parents to simply different religious preferences. And the trend is on the rise.
“Adoption discrimination is snowballing toward a serious crisis for children, families and communities,” Liz Welch, a faith engagement strategist at the American Civil Liberties Union, told NBC News. “Once considered fringe policy in just a couple states, the push behind child welfare religious exemption bills has picked up alarming speed and momentum.”
The Trump administration is on board with these policies on the federal level. In January, the Department of Health and Human Services issued a waiver allowing government-funded South Carolina adoption agencies to refuse to comply with nondiscrimination requirements as a stipulation of receiving federal funding. And these adoption agencies can use religious preferences to discriminate not just against the LGBTQ community, but against Jewish and Catholic parents, as well.
Fortunately, companies aren’t required to follow the federal lead. They have choices in how they cover these perks, creating stronger family structures and improved employee loyalty.
“More and more of WINFertility’s employer clients are waiving, or altering the definition of infertility for their benefits,” Nieves says. “This means an employee doesn’t need to meet that strict definition in order to get access to their fertility benefits. On top of that, we are seeing a trend in offering surrogacy and adoption solutions to ensure that the family-building benefit is truly inclusive of the entire population.”