You’ve probably heard of the water crisis in Flint, MI. In case you haven’t, here’s the gist of it. While the city of Flint was under emergency management by order of Governor Rick Snyder in 2014, a decision was made to discontinue sourcing the city’s water from the city of Detroit.
As a cost saving measure, Flint’s water supply would instead come from the Flint River. The river water was so corrosive that it broke down the city’s lead pipes, leaching toxic levels into the Flint residents’ water. Lead poisoning in children can cause developmental delays, vomiting, hearing loss, and more. In adults, it can cause memory loss, high blood pressure, reduced sperm count, miscarriage, the list goes on. In addition to lead poisoning, an outbreak of Legionnaire’s Disease, which is possibly the result of the contaminated water supply, has killed 10 people. This is all completely horrific.
In October, Flint’s water supply was switched back and is once again sourced from Detroit. However, the damage to the pipes has been done and the water is still unsafe. It wasn’t until January 5th though, that Governor Snyder declared a State of Emergency and on January 16th, President Obama declared the situation in Flint a federal state of emergency. Obama was visiting Detroit yesterday and spoke about this disaster.
Nearly seven years into my experience with infertility, it’s rare that I have those moments that anyone with an infertility diagnosis knows well. They come out of nowhere. The hit by a truck, breath knocked out of you, heart breaking into a hundred pieces moments when someone asks you if you have children, you see a young child reach for his father’s hand, or a pregnant woman lovingly rubs her belly. I’ve come a long way in dealing with the emotions that come along with this disease. However, listening to coverage of President Obama’s speech on my local NPR station, Michigan Radio, while sitting in traffic during my commute last night, I nearly burst into tears. The reporter quoted the president and then followed up with audio from his speech, reflecting on the crisis in Flint.
“I’m very proud of what I’ve done as president, but the only job that’s more important to me is the job of father. And, I know that if I was a parent up there, I would be beside myself that my kids’ health could be at risk. That’s why over the weekend, I declared a federal emergency in Flint to send more resources on top of the assistance that we’ve already put on the ground.”
Obama went on to say that he’s designated a federal coordinator to make sure the people in Flint get what they need from their country, that he’s met with Flint’s Mayor, Karen Weaver, and told her that he’s going to have her back, and all of the people of Flint’s back, as they work their way through this terrible tragedy.
My heart broke when I heard those words. My heart is racing now, after listening to Obama’s speech again to transcribe his sentiments. The President says he’s proudest of his role as a parent, a role that millions of Americans long for, yet are unable to achieve, because they have the disease of infertility. The federal government has the city of Flint’s back, as it absolutely should, yet there is no federal mandate for health coverage for the diagnosis or treatment of infertility.
Most Americans don’t have infertility coverage and many have to pay completely out of pocket for their health expenses due to this disease, a disease that is recognized by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) as a public health concern. The federal government doesn’t even have the backs of veterans who are infertile as a direct result of injuries sustained in the line of duty. There is currently a Veterans Administration ban on coverage for in vitro fertilization, a procedure that could bring the dream of parenthood to thousands of veterans of war who can’t become mothers and fathers without it. Parenthood. The role which their commander in chief values above all.
The people of Flint are worried about their health, scared of what their futures might hold, or might not hold, as a result of the public health crisis of contaminated drinking water. People are outraged so they’re raising their voices and they’re being heard.
This is why I raise awareness through infertility art exhibits, art and writing workshops, and conference presentations with ART of Infertility. This is why I lobby on Capitol Hill each year on Advocacy Day for legislation that, if put into effect, will help those with the disease of infertility build their families through treatment or adoption.
Maria and me on Advocacy Day 2015.
My infertility diagnosis affects my health and well being and alters the possibilities for my future. It makes me outraged that my loved ones and I don’t have access to the care we need to treat our disease. So, I write my members of congress, meet with them on Capitol Hill, align myself with members of the infertility community so we can support each other. I shed light on the trials of infertility through portraits and interviews of those dealing with the disease and curate exhibits of artwork created by them so the public, our insurers, and legislators can better understand why it’s important that we gain the health coverage we need.
Like the president, I’m proud of the work I have done. However, my job won’t be finished until every person who wants to be a mother, or wants to be a father, has access to the resources they need to achieve their dream.
Advocacy Day is on May 11 this year. Please join me in Washington, D.C! Click here for more info.