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Veterans, Wounded Warrior Speak out for Murray-Larsen Bill to Provide Fertility Services

SEATTLE—Two paralyzed veterans and an active duty wounded warrior spoke out yesterday in support of a bill authored by Sen. Patty Murray and introduced in the House by Rep. Rick Larsen, both D-Wash., that would provide advanced fertility treatments, including in vitro fertilization to veterans. (Click here for a fact sheet.) The three servicemembers all sustained service-related injuries that caused paralysis leaving them unable to conceive children without in vitro fertilization.

Speaking in support of the bill were:

  • Gary Pearson, a Vietnam War veteran who had to utilize in vitro fertilization to have children;
  • Sean Halstead and his wife Sarah, who also used in vitro fertilization after Sean sustained a paralysis-causing injury; and
  • Niall Kennedy and his wife Margeaux, who are considering pursuing in vitro fertilization to have children after Niall’s injury caused by a parachute malfunction during a training mission. The Kennedys said that without passage of the bill they may need to wait years before being able to afford in vitro fertilization.

“The VA has an obligation to care for the combat wounded, and that should include access to the fertility care they need,” said Murray, the chairman of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee. “Our bill will give VA broad authority to offer advanced fertility treatments to the most severely wounded veterans, their spouses, or surrogates.”

“These veterans have already paid too high a price in service to our nation. They should not have to pay a higher cost to have a family,” Larsen said.

“The challenges that Niall, Sean and Gary face as paralyzed veterans are already enormous. They should not have to pay thousands of dollars in out-of-pocket medical costs for fertility treatment that they need because of the injuries they sustained in the line of service. People need to hear these stories and we need to correct this injustice,” Larsen added.

Sarah Halstead said that following Sean’s injury, “My first thought after hearing he was going to be OK was, ‘are we going to be able to have a family?” The Halsteads said they spent between $15,000 and $20,000 on in vitro fertilization to conceive their children.

Niall Kennedy, who is still an active duty captain in the Army, said the United States owes its servicemembers and veterans all measures to restore their capabilities prior to their injuries to the extent possible.

Margeaux Kennedy said that because in vitro fertilization care is not provided by the Veterans Administration, she and Niall have put their family plans on hold.

“The very first day I found out that Niall had a spinal injury, I also found out that I might not be able to be a mom,” Margeaux Kennedy said. “Just recently I had to stop thinking about being a mom because I know it’s just not possible right now.”

She added that if the Murray-Larsen bill does not pass, she and Niall would have to wait six or seven years before being able to afford in vitro fertilization care on their own.

Murray’s bill was approved by the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee and awaits consideration by the full Senate. The bill introduced by Larsen in the House has 14 cosponsors.