By Patrick Lagacé
Originally published on March 26, 2015
See original French text here: http://www.lapresse.ca/debats/chroniques/patrick-lagace/201503/23/01-4854766-scier-la-branche-sur-laquelle-on-est-assis.php
Friday morning, at the Reproductive Centre of the McGill University Health Centre. Each chair is occupied by a woman who wants to become pregnant with the help of science. Élodie Mantha, 33 years old, from Gatineau, is one of them. If they are so numerous, it is because the assisted procreation program – public and free – exists.
Created in 2010, the program was meant to cost 48 million annually. It costs 70 million. This popularity is not a passing fad: from 1992 to 2012, infertility* doubled in Canada – from 8.5% to 16%, one couple in six – for a series of factors that are more or less known.
And the older women are, the more they are infertile and the more they need the helping hand of science to get pregnant.
Since 2010, 5000 children were conceived thanks to the assisted procreation program. A brilliant success, that stimulates science that is made in Québec, that contributes to softening the demographic shock, and that fills couples with joy for being able to conceive without becoming destitute.
The program is nevertheless condemned, as you probably know : the project of Bill 20, when it will be officially announced, will abolish its free character.
I asked a question to Élodie, a sort of avuncular question, a question she had already heard a hundred times when she was trying to have the baby that became Benjamin.
“Could you have not been happy, without a child?”
“Maybe. But allow me to make a generalization. My boyfriend was getting used to the idea, that we will not have children. Not me. I was not getting used to it. It was panic. I do lots of things that fulfill me, but none like being Benjamin’s mother.”
A mother’s words that could have been pronounced by millions of mothers, I am sure. A mother’s words that can demonstrate the beauty of the miracle of life, and of science, in Élodie’s case.
But in these words of Élodie’s, there is also something like the genesis of the great human adventure.
The instinct for life.
Those eager to criticize will say that the announced death of the assisted procreation program is another manifestation of the indifference of the Couillard government to women. It has been demonstrated: austerity hits programs and measure that women benefit from more.
This indifference is probably part of the equation.
But there is more to it.
First, a profound disdain for this program launched in 2010, in the medical world, from where Premier Couillard and his Health Minister, Gaétan Barrette, came. That year, I did a big series on cancer for La Press: I cannot count the number of times I was told that this program was a scandal. Let me summarize the thinking of a number of people I interviewed: “We don’t have money for cancer, but we have money to make babies, pfff…”
Then, the assisted procreation program was forced down the throat of Philippe Couillard, when he was Health Minister. He did not want it, up until a few months before resigned in 2008. But women’s pressure – led by celebrity Julie Snyder, who made use of IVF, in the private system, to have children – who owed their joy at being mothers to science, ended up catching the attention of Jean Charest. He became the midwife of the program, launched in 2010.
Five years later, austerity which serves as a social project justifies many things, like the death of the assisted procreation program.
Gaétan Barrette was in favour of the principle of assisted procreation as part of the public regime in 2008, when he was president of the Fédération des médecins spécialistes du Québec (FMSQ).
He who was previously a CAQ-ist before become a Liberal, who negotiated an astronomical salary increase for specialist doctors before imposing his image in time made, on the issue of assisted procreation, another one of his laughable about-faces: as Health Minister, he is now the enthusiastic grave digger of the program.
Like just about everywhere in the Western world, Québec is burdened with an unfavourable “demographic dependency ratio”. Translation: there are fewer and fewer workers to finance the increasing needs of people described as “inactive”, who are less than15 years old or over 64.
No, the assisted procreation program, public and free, is not THE solution to demographic shock. But an increasing birth rate is part of the solution, not the problem, to our demographic challenges.
And here, a program that works well, that brought 5000 little Quebeckers into the world in 5 years, that is cited as an example more or less everywhere in the world and which sows the seeds – let us not fear the words – joy from Gatineau to Gaspé, will be scrapped….
For 70 million a year.
It seems to me that in the grand order of things, it is like cutting off the branch that you are sitting on, just to make three logs.
Under the new regime, a tax credit aligned with family revenue will cover – partially or not at all – the expenses of couples seeking recourse to science to have children.
In the pavilion of the Royal Vic where I am accompanying Élodie, a doctor leaves their office at regular intervals and calls a patient. Each time, one of the women leaves her chair and follows the doctor. It will soon be Élodie’s turn.
The first time I came here, Élodie tells me, it was before 2010, when the program was not yet available.
“We did not think we would be able to pay for the treatment.”
“How much is it?”
“It is $10 000 per treatment, and you sometimes need up to three.”
Do the math. Overcoming infertility will soon become the domain of the rich, or of intense deprivation.
*Infertility is described as such: the incapacity to procreate after 12 months of unprotected sexual relations.
Translated from the original French by Language and Dissent, a collectively-run blog supporting the anti-austerity struggle in Quebec. These are amateur translations written by volunteers; we have done our best to translate these pieces fairly and coherently, but the final texts may have their flaws. If you find any important errors in any of these texts, we would be very grateful if you would share them with us via email (languageanddissent [at] gmail [dot] com). Please read and distribute these texts in the spirit in which they were intended; that of solidarity and the sharing of information.