Magazine article The Advocate (The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine)

The High Cost of Parenting: LGBT Parents Discover Financial Challenges

Magazine article The Advocate (The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine)

The High Cost of Parenting: LGBT Parents Discover Financial Challenges

Article excerpt

Love makes a family, the saying goes, but--as LGBT parents quickly discover--love isn't enough: money plays a central role as well. From family creation to securing legal ties and finding welcoming schools, parents and prospective parents may face additional, unique financial obstacles because they are LGBT.

It's not all dollar signs either. Costs may also come in terms of time and other trade-offs. Lack of family support and an unfriendly political climate can add to the challenges. Balancing financial, emotional, and time-management needs can require a combination of frugality, creativity, and luck.


Infertility can be costly for anyone, but it can hit queer families particularly hard. Most insurance companies will not pay for fertility treatments until after a certain number of failed attempts to have a child without it. For different-sex, cisgender couples, that simply means having unprotected vaginal intercourse.

For individuals or couples who only have uteruses, however, this means inseminating at a medical clinic, explained Liz Coolidge, a family and parenting services coordinator at Fenway Health in Boston. Costs vary depending on the clinic, but Fenway charges an initial fee of $300 plus $250 for each standard insemination. Unless the person or couple is using donated sperm, they must also buy a sample at an additional $400 to $1,000 per vial, plus $200 for the cryogenic shipping.

Even with an infertility diagnosis, infertility coverage is only mandated in 15 states, and the specifics of what (and who) is covered vary, according to Resolve, the National Infertility Association. In 2016, four lesbians filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against the state of New Jersey over a mandate that women demonstrate infertility through "two years of unprotected sexual intercourse" before treatments are covered. In response, Gov. Chris Christie signed a law this spring that requires infertility treatments be covered for parents of any sexual orientation.

Two New York bills are pending that would mandate infertility coverage "regardless of [the] sexual orientation, marital status, or gender identity" of the insured. Hawaii has a similar bill.

Since 2013, California has required equal coverage for LGBT prospective parents; while Maryland requires insurers provide married same-sex couples the same benefits provided their heterosexual counterparts.

The costs of infertility can quickly add up. "We definitely live paycheck to paycheck," Nicole, a high school English teacher said. She and her wife Bethany, a child development specialist, live in San Diego with their 1 year-old son, who they had after a long battle with infertility. They own a home, but have no savings.

The couple first tried to get Nicole pregnant at a clinic through intrauterine insemination, which has a better success rate than intracervical inseminations (the "turkey baster" method typically done at home with a syringe). After multiple failed attempts at $2,000 a pop, they discovered Nicole's fallopian tubes were blocked. They switched to in vitro fertilization, where the eggs are taken out and fertilized in the lab before being placed in the uterus. Their plan was to use Nicole's eggs and have Bethany carry them. The cost of IVF in San Diego was over $17,000 per attempt. Their insurance only covered medication. The couple took out a loan and got creative: they rented a house in Colorado Springs, where a clinic offered the same procedure for $10,000. Bethany got pregnant on the first try.

They'd like to have another child, but, "financially, right now, we can't afford to," Bethany said. Nicole and Bethany have also been unable to afford the legal protections of a second-parent adoption and a termination-of-rights document from the donor, which they said would cost about $3,000. Instead they drew up their own document for the donor, based on online examples. …

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