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FAMILY FIRST

By TOBY WALKER ANGELA CLARK knows all too well how infertility can consume the lives of couples hoping to start a family.

For six years she and husband Jim used IVF treatments to conceive and, after 16 cycles, their son Scott finally arrived into the world.

Thirteen years on, Mrs Clark is concerned the Howard Government will make it more difficult for infertile couples to have children by restricting the number of Medicare-subsidised rebates for IVF cycles.

This week Mrs Clark left her Grafton home for Melbourne to work on behalf of ACCESS, a national consumer-based infertility association that oversees support networks for infertile people across Australia.

Speculation the government would move to make savings from its rebates for IVF cycles in its May 10 budget has been met with fierce opposition from ACCESS.

They have found support in the medical profession and female members from all sides of politics, all of whom have condemned such a move by the Howard Government.

Although the government is yet to decide whether to cut IVF access for women, it's believed the plan would restrict women aged under 42 to three Medicare-funded IVF cycles a year, and women over 42 to a total of three cycles.

Cuts to the Medicare rebate will save the government an estimated $7 million.

Mrs Clark felt the government's consideration of such a move was prejudicial to infertile couples.

"I think it's an absolutely dreadful thing that they're proposing because IVF ... takes up a very, very small amount of the health budget," she said.

"It's a recognised treatment and it should be available to women if that's what their doctors advise that they should have."

"They're sort of branding it as something like cosmetic surgery and turning it into an elective treatment.

"Infertility is something that takes over the whole of peoples' lives.

"It is a really devastating feeling to not be in control of your own fertility.

"No woman would take that treatment (IVF) if she were able to conceive naturally and yet the joy of having that child is something you couldn't ever put a monetary figure on."



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