An age-old question on taxpayer funding for IVF
Hundreds of Australians die every year because of overcrowded hospitals. Children with disabilities struggle to get the help and equipment they need. Public schools are under-resourced. We don’t have a magic uber-highway to zip us around the country at the speed of sound.
And yet we’re spending taxpayer’s cash on IVF for women in their 50s. Riddle me that.
The news that a 60-year-old gave birth is the sort of thing that sees some people shudder while others are all high-fives and ‘you go girlfriend’ excited.
I’m on the shudder side, but that’s neither here nor there, nor particularly rational. It’s their business. There are all sorts of ways in which many parents are sub-optimal. Whatever ‘optimal’ is.
But when there’s a very finite fiscal pie, when there are people who desperately need help to, you know, live, why the hell are we subsidising IVF for post-menopausal women?
There’s not a lot of them. According to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare’s perinatal statistics director Elizabeth Sullivan there’s fewer than 50 over 50. But there were 565 over 45. Most of the over 50s and many of the over 45s would have had IVF.
“You don’t get many natural conceptions over 50,” Dr Sullivan said.
“The majority of people giving birth in their 50s would be very likely using assisted reproduction, including another woman’s eggs or a frozen embryo.
“It’s highly likely women giving birth at 60 will be following assisted reproductive technology of some type.”
There was all hell to pay when the Federal Government capped the Medicare safety net, effectively limiting how many IVF cycles they would fund. Those who opposed the move – such as Family First – touted it as a tax on mums.
The subtext was that people have some sort of inalienable right to parenthood, or that IVF is a ‘treatment’ that people ‘need’ in the same way they need life-saving surgery.
It’s not. It’s entirely different.
It’s a brilliant technology that delivers increasingly successful outcomes to ecstatic parents. It’s helped complete the lives of many of my friends.
But it’s not a necessity, and it’s certainly not a necessity for people whose bodies have moved past the point of fertility. Statistics released last year showed that only one in 100 women over the age of 44 who used assisted reproduction technology had a live baby. They’re not good odds.
While we have kids that wait for wheelchairs, and people without homes, and people dying for lack of access to healthcare, helping older mums have bubs is not a priority for how the Government spends your money.
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