Telling Your Story – and Moving Mountains
Posted by: Renee Whitley at March 2, 2012
Category: Infertility Advocacy
For someone from the South, you would think I would know better than to stereotype people from other states. But I plead guilty. I have always thought of those hailing from Oklahoma as stoic folks, not easily given to tears.
But last Thursday, the tears flowed freely in a small room at the Oklahoma capitol as infertility physicians and patients held a press conference to explain why SB 1433 and HJR 1067, “Personhood” legislation currently active in the Oklahoma state legislature, would have dire repercussions on infertility treatments.
The room was filled with cameras and reporters who were happy to hear the medical facts from actual doctors: physicians who practice reproductive endocrinology and treat the Oklahomans who are living with infertility. Dr. Eli Reshef spoke passionately about helping patients and held up a large collage filled with pictures of babies born as a result of his clinic’s treatment. He referred to the children pictured as “my patients’ dreams.”
|Dr. Reshef speaking at the Barefoot and Pregnant Rally against the Personhood Bill
Photo by Serena Blaiz
Behind the podium and spilling into the hallway were dozens of physicians in white coats, standing in support of Dr. Reshef and in opposition to this Personhood legislation. Among the doctors was Dr. Ken King, director of the Oklahoma State Medical Association.
Also speaking at the press conference was Atlee Breland, heroine of the “MS 26” 2011 ballot initiative in Mississippi. She listed the organizations opposing this bill and asked people who they trusted. Did they trust physicians and patients to give them the facts, or did they trust the politicians?
But for about ten minutes, there was not a dry eye as young mother, ovarian cancer survivor, Oklahoma resident, Aimee Salalati shared her story. She told of her struggle to overcome cancer and how the treatments left her with infertility. Her voice began to crack as she introduced her husband and their young son. She described how his birth, her hope for him and her love for him, saved her. With this child, the first grandchild in the family, who was here only because of IVF, she lost the lingering anger left from the cancer.
During treatment, she said, it was the hope of that child, the hope offered to her by IVF, which sustained her. She fears the young women in her infertility support group will not have the same hope if IVF is no longer offered in Oklahoma.
Aimee begged the lawmakers to think about the impact of taking away IVF, the reality of taking away the hope this life-affirming treatment holds for many families, and oppose the legislation.
I was so moved by the courage she showed in sharing her story. The most powerful tool to defeat anti-family legislation is telling the stories of those whose hopes and dreams of a family will be shattered with the passing of Personhood legislation. At the end of the thirty minutes, Dr. Reshef called out the Oklahoma Senate who passed this legislation, calling it, “callous and irresponsible. Our Senators did not sit down and think through this.”
We hope that the Oklahoma House members show compassion and restraint with SB 1433. If you live in Oklahoma, please help them remember infertility patients with a letter expressing your opposition to SB 1433. And keep an eye on your state – we may need you to share your story, just like Aimee did.
I think now, I will equate Oklahomans with “courage.” It certainly fits the folks I saw on Thursday.
- Watch the Press Conference
- Read media coverage of SB 1433
- Read Dr. Reshef's Editorial about SB 1433
- Send a letter to the House of Representatives opposing this bill
Renee Whitley is the co-chair of RESOLVE’s Advocacy Committee. She has volunteered for many years in her home state of Georgia and serves as an invaluable resource for volunteers, professionals, legislators and their staff across the country on issues related to infertility legislation, policy, and a host of issues related to reproductive health. She was instrumental in the fight against Georgia Senate Bill 169 in 2009, a bill that would have severely impacted access to infertility treatment in Georgia. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.