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Maddie Chandler's original artwork for the cover of Only Human.
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The Cruel Cuts to NHS-funded Fertility Treatment Continue – Let’s all #Scream4IVF
As free fertility treatment on the NHS takes yet another blow, this time in Bury which has just slashed its funding for IVF, I joined the recent protest rally, #Scream4IVF, in Whitehall. Led jointly by Fertility Network UK, and IVF babble, the campaign aims to stop the cruel cuts and is seeking 100,000 petition signatures to force a debate in Parliament.
One in six couples now struggle to conceive, that’s a hefty chunk of the population – and the odds are that many MPs will be among them. Let’s get them discussing, realising, the devastating impact these cuts will have on our society.
If no longer available on the NHS, only the wealthy will be able to access IVF through private clinics, at £5,000 a pop and counting. Each treatment has a success rate of just 25% (and that’s if you’re young) so how many times will couples have to scrimp and save, slide into crippling debt, or re-mortgage their home to try for that elusive baby? It took me personally four treatment cycles to get there.
Have you ever had to stab yourself with a needle? Sweaty fingers hovering over your flesh, stomach churning, unable to do it, even though you keep telling yourself to do it NOW! It was sixteen years ago, but I’ve never forgotten those dark days of needles and drugs – nor the even more distressing two weeks of waiting to see if it’s worked. Add extreme financial anxiety to that anguish, and the cumulative stress is bound to affect your outcome.
Some may consider IVF funding an obvious target to slash, the soft underbelly of the NHS. This is a short-sighted view. Infertility is a medical problem. The WHO terms it ‘a disease of the reproductive system’. What’s more, the so-called diseases of despair, such as depression and alcoholism, are all on the up in the UK. The numbers requiring NHS treatment will be swollen by the hundreds of thousands of couples unable to afford IVF and left yearning for a family.
Are we heading towards a distorted society, where the less wealthy will be unable to have children? It smacks almost of social engineering, however blindly the steps towards that nightmare reality will have been taken. Apparently Bury will save all of £170,000 a year by slashing its funded IVF treatments. I mean, really?
A debate in Parliament will at least expose the impact of these cuts. It may even just possibly reverse them. Please sign the petition, it takes just a minute. As I write it stands at 88,000 signatures – just a final push to reach the 100,00 neded. https://www.change.org/p/scream4ivf-to-support-greater-funding-of-free-ivf-treatment-and-equality-across-the-uk-and-all-ccgs
I stood with many others outside Downing Street screaming against the cuts. A long series of recorded screams was played, some of them blood-curdling, which certainly snagged the attention of passers-by! Over 250,000 babies have now been born in the UK through fertility treatment. Don’t let us stamp out the hope and joy IVF has brought to so many couples in the very year that the first test tube baby, Louise Brown, has turned 40.
12th -13th May 2018
Fertility Fest 2018 – Where the Arts and Fertility Collide
A magical event, Fertility Fest 2018, is about to burst onto the platforms of The Bush Theatre in London’s W12. Bringing 150 artists and fertility experts together over the course of one vibrant week, Fertility Fest is the invention of Jessica Hepburn, one of the UK’s leading lights in the fertility world and a former Director of the Lyric Theatre. She and her Co-Director, Gabby Vautier, have created a unique programme, festooned with enticing, thought-provoking and entertaining events around questions of fertility. There will be theatre and poetry, discussion and debate. There will be photography and artwork, book readings and comedy. Above all there will be support and solidarity.
Fertility is emerging from the dark. Oodles of celebrities are now eager to share their own stories of how they’ve struggled to conceive. Artists across the world are writing and blogging about infertility, creating theatre and poetry, devising art and photography. They are even tackling comedy. Fertility Fest will celebrate this creativity and the way in which it is helping to pitch fertility matters into the limelight. Into the mainstream.
So, what’s on offer? Well, it’s all been appealingly put together, with often amusing titles to the events – which is not to say that their subject matter will be. You may be intrigued by a session entitled, The Doctor in the Bedroom. That one’s all about how it feels to be on the IVF journey. Brought vividly to life by Izzy Judd, author of memoir, Dare to Dream, and photographer, Sophie Ingleby with her project SEED. Fertility experts will join them on stage to tell us how it was for them.
You, Me and the Pornstar certainly stands out! That one’s about how it feels for the man to have to take his sticky mag into a small room and… well, you know. Photographer, Aaron Deemer’s project, Please Make Yourself Uncomfortable, captures the nature of these semen-harvesting rooms in clinics across the UK. Playwright, Gareth Farr, will also present his touching work, The Quiet House, about a male experience of IVF.
How about The Queer Family, shedding light on the LGBT community’s experience of surrogacy, assisted conception and adoption? Or the moving The M Word: Miscarriage not Motherhood, striking a more sombre tone.
I’ll be participating in a session neatly entitled, What Comes First, the Career or the Egg? There will be an excerpt from a fabulous creation, Re:production by the White Slate Theatre Company, and a reading from Moondance, followed by a spirited debate with the experts on how young women approach their own fertility today.
Most days will conclude with a Fertility Fight Club. Various artists and fertility experts will take to the stage to fight for what they believe in. Expect feisty provocation, followed by lively debate, on such matters as Secondary Infertility: What’s the Problem? Or Yes I wanted Children, No I Don’t Want Your Children… All of it live-streamed on Facebook.
On permanent show throughout the week will be a stunning art exhibition, showcasing the work of several artists. And each evening humour will be offered, in the form of Eggsistentialism – one woman’s quest to uncover the ifs, hows and whys of reproducing her genes. Fertility Bloggers, that wonderful community who share and enlighten, often with poignant humour, will have their own dedicated session to chew the fat. And attendees will be offered the special opportunity of having their own fertility story played back through improvisation, by theatre company Drunken Sailor. There will even be a Fertility Freedom Scratch Night – an open mic opportunity for performers to showcase new and emerging work: music, theatre, poetry and more.
Fertility Fest kicks off with a book launch. 21 Miles: Swimming in Search of Motherhood, by Jessica Hepburn, charts the tale of her swim across the Channel to raise awareness of fertility issues. This launch is sold out… other tickets are disappearing fast.
Fertility Fest from 8th to 13th May 2018 at The Bush Theatre, London. What better way to mark the year in which Louise Brown, the world’s first IVF baby, will celebrate her 40th birthday?
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4th May 2017
Natural and Mild IVF: How Fertility Treatment Has Moved On From My Day
17th March 2017
Fertility Network UK Patient Day of Action Saturday 25th March. One In Five Couples Now Struggle To Conceive. But IVF Must Not Just Be For The Wealthy
31st January 2017
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5th January 2017
The Brutal and Ridiculous Process of the 11+ Private School Entrance Exams
2nd November 2016
National Fertility Awareness Week - How Can You Long For Someone Who Doesn’t Exist?