Disparities in access to health care are no secret to anyone. However, within these power structures, there are layers of racism that few have considered until now.
New studies have determined the impact of bias on medical procedures such as fertility treatments that, as expected, often profoundly affect couples of color.
According to studies conducted by the National Survey of Family Growth, 12% of women in the United States used fertility services from 2006 to 2010. However, white women were two times more likely to use medical help than Black or Latinx women. While white women made up 15%, 8% of Black women, and 7.6% of Hispanic women were able to seek the same help.
“You cannot downplay the fairly substantial evidence that suggests minorities have it worse than their white counterparts,” Will Kiltz, communication director at CNY Fertility, a clinic in Syracuse, New York, told Well and Good.
Under “normal” conditions, when a couple fails to get pregnant after more than six months of trying, their doctor usually refers them to a fertility specialist.
However, as new studies show, the same cannot be said for Black, Indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC) couples, who often have to wait much longer before they can access a specialist.
Though Michael Thomas, MD, chief of the division of reproductive endocrinology and infertility and the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine, says these delays happen for various reasons, he assures “OB/GYNs have to treat all patients the same. They have to understand that if a patient needs a fertility expert, it’s important to send them early rather than later.”
According to the National Survey for Family Growth, among married women, black women are more likely to report infertility compared with white women.
Similarly, racial disparities exist in the utilization of infertility treatments, with non-Hispanic white women most likely to receive treatment. As fertility counseling and treatment become more common and more successful in helping women become pregnant, a new area for disparity has emerged.
“Gaps remain in understanding disparities in the accessibility to and utilization of infertility counseling and treatment,” a 2015 study by the University of Emory explains. “The preponderance of the literature is in clinic-based studies and only provides information on the subgroup of help-seeking women with infertility. Even among women who do seek medical help to become pregnant, studies have found that black women wait longer to seek care after difficulty becoming pregnant compared with white women.”
Infertility treatment may also be cost-prohibitive for some women.
One IVF cycle can cost anywhere between $12,000 to $17,000, which is before the medication required for the treatment. This, in total, brings up the number to $25,000.
However, even in states where there are mandates that insurance coverage includes infertility treatment, race, and education disparities persist.
BIPOC patients are at a disadvantage from the beginning. It makes matters worse that physician referrals and promotional marketing techniques are catered to non-BIPOC. According to the Indiana Law Journal, they found that out of 372 fertility clinics, 63% of those websites only displayed pictures of white babies.
So, where does a racist medical system go from there? At the center of it all is to seek more inclusivity and create more startups like Kindbody that aims to market fertility treatment to BIPOC.
We can only hope as we move towards an era where things are fair for everyone that fertility treatment and medical help as a whole will be more inclusive and caring of everyone’s needs, not just the white community.