PORTSMOUTH, Va. - It could be impossible for injured veterans to start a family of their own through in vitro fertilization because of a newly passed amendment attached to a recent health and human services appropriations bill.
The amendment states the federal government will pay for in vitro fertilization for injured veterans only if they do not result in the discarding or destruction of human embryos. However, IVF itself can harm the embryos. Infertility advocates said if the bill passes in the House of Representatives, IVF would most likely never be available for injured veterans, making the already tough road for some military families who want to start a family much more difficult.
Crystal's husband Tyler was on a rescue mission in Afghanistan in 2005 when he was hit by four bullets. One of them pierced his spine and is still in his body. At that point, his career in the military was over and IVF was the only way they could start a family. Unfortunately, it's expensive and not covered by Tyler's VA benefits.
"The fact Tyler is being denied this care is absolutely disgusting to be quite honest. The fact he's having to beg and plead to start a family because he served in the military," said Crystal Wilson.
Thanks to friends and family, crowdfunding and grants, the Wilsons are now expecting their first child.
"I believe the men and women who serve the country, they sacrifice so much. I think given that sacrifice they do, I think that paying for IVF is a very small repayment of that," said Kassi Owcar, who is trying to have kids through IVF. Owcar's husband is still an active military member without any injuries. But their struggle with infertility is as painful as any battle wound.
"It's hard knowing that we can spend 15, 20, 30 thousand dollars and still never have a baby. It's very hard knowing that might not ever happen," said Owcar, who is raising money through her GoFundMe page.
For the Sheltons, who documented their journey to parenthood, IVF was everything they hoped it would be. Ashley's husband is active military. Ashley said she'll never forget how she felt when she got the good news she was pregnant, with twins.
"It was almost magical. It was like, is this real? Can this really be happening? It almost felt too good to be true. I got the best of both world with twins, one girl and one boy. My house has never been so happily messy!" said Ashley.
The President of RESOLVE: The National Infertility Association Barb Collura said if the HHS appropriations bill passes, it will tell veterans what they can and can't do with their embryos. This is the first time Congress has weighed in on human embryos as a result of IVF, according to Collura.
"What was most insulting that we heard yesterday was Congress is better suited to make decisions about people's embryos than the people who created them," said Collura.
Infertility advocates said the bill attempts to protect embryos, but it will actually make practicing IVF impossible.
"I think it’s important for everybody to understand infertility and how anybody can face it. I never thought that’d happen to us, but we’re one in five couples," said Owcar.
Virginia Representative Scott Rigell, who supports veterans, voted against the health and human services appropriations bill. Infertility advocates have an amendment attached to a large bill, which would provide veterans with in vitro fertilization.