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Federal Health Program Cuts May Affect Infertility Research

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As a way to reduce the national deficit, congressional Republicans have released proposals that call for severe budget cuts in the portion of the federal budget that includes education, health, environmental protection and child services. This includes budget cuts for programs that deal with infertility research for fertility treatments and infertility diagnostics.

Fertility Research in Danger

The House Republicans’ plan includes a set of cuts that would reduce spending by about $61 million. According to the Los Angeles Times, criticism is mounting for these cuts, which critics believe would not accomplish a lot in addressing the nation’s $1.5 trillion deficit.

As listed in the bulletin released by the American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM), the federal health programs in danger include the National Institutes for Health (NIH), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention CDC, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and Title X Block Grants, among others.

However, Sean Tipton the Director of Public Affairs for the ASRM says that the proposed budget cuts to the NIH are the ones most likely to immediately affect the field of infertility and fertility treatment research. The NIH could experience up to a 20 percent cut in federal funding.

According to Tipton, the proposed budget cuts can create a “yo-yo effect” with regards to research funding, especially if funding had increased previously only to be cut again.

“If there are a few good years of funding, the researchers hire team members, buy equipment and start the projects,” he says. “When the funding gets cut, then this work is interrupted — they have to let people go, and they can’t complete their projects.”

When these infertility research projects are halted, the effects on the field of infertility and fertility treatment can be monumental.

“The worrisome part is there is no way to know what you may not learn if the research can’t get done,” Tipton says. “Suppose one of the post docs in your lab has to be let go. If he’s let go, he won’t be able to make that discovery he would have made if his research was not interrupted. The risks are huge.”

How Budget Cuts Affect Couples Struggling with Infertility

So how does this affect couples who are struggling with infertility now? Researchers are currently involved in new infertility research projects that are testing new fertility medications, diagnostic tools, and ways to improve fertility treatments. They are also looking deeper into other issues that can affect fertility, such as the genetic issues of infertility, the impact of hormones, and causes of miscarriage that can help them learn ways to help sustain pregnancy.

“A lot of the work that finds its way to the clients in the fertility clinics begins with federally funded research,” Tipton says.

According to Tipton, the best thing fertility patients can do now is to get involved. Infertility patients worried about the proposed budget cuts are encouraged to contact their members of Congress to protest the cuts.

“It doesn’t take long,” he says. “You can send a one-line e-mail or pick up the phone. The politicians need to know that these cuts have negative effects on the people.”

More information on how to contact your government officials can be found in the ASRM bulletin.