AUGUSTA – A panel of lawmakers heard story after story of heartbreak Wednesday from would-be parents testifying in support of a bill that would require insurance companies to cover infertility treatments.

Many who spoke at the public hearing were unable to control their emotions as they told of struggling for years to conceive, spending thousands of dollars on treatments and often having to give up on their dreams.

“This loss of a basic human desire, to procreate, to create life, a child life, created out of love, is a painful mourning process that simply does not need to be,” said Crystal Toothaker of Harpswell; she and her husband have been struggling to start a family since 1999. “There are treatments available that offer high success rates with our diagnosis with unexplained infertility.”

State Rep. Gary Knight, R-Livermore Falls, who sponsored the bill, said many Mainers needlessly suffer the pain of infertility when medical assistance is available, but financially out of reach.

“Implementing the mandate will provide these couples and their families the help they need to undergo medically appropriate fertility procedures, deter associated mental health issues and keep the overall cost of health care down,” Knight said.

Infertility treatment coverage is mandated in nine states, including Connecticut, Massachusetts and Rhode Island, according to testimony.

But the proposal, L.D. 720, faces opposition from both the Maine Civil Liberties Union and the Family Planning Association of Maine because it would restrict infertility coverage to married couples and exclude those who are infertile due to sexually transmitted disease.

“That provision that discriminates against unmarried individuals is unconstitutional under Supreme Court precedent,” said Shenna Bellows, executive director of the civil liberties union.

State Rep. Melissa Walsh Innes, D-Yarmouth, a co-sponsor of the measure, also said she opposed the controversial provisions.

“I am not sure who wrote this language into the bill, but I find the limit section extremely offensive and discriminatory,” she said. “If a woman is struggling with infertility but has medical insurance that offers the chance to get financial assistance with infertility treatments, who is the state of Maine to judge whether she is married or free of an STD?”

Representatives from Maine’s insurance industry also opposed the proposal, arguing it would increase costs for all ratepayers.

“The (Maine) Bureau of Insurance did study a similar proposal in 2003 and estimated that similar legislation would represent a 1.4 percent premium increase and it estimated that it would coincidentally benefit about 1.4 percent of Maine’s population,” said Kristine Ossenfort of Anthem Blue Cross & Blue Shield. “We simply can’t choose to increase our health insurance costs at this time. Insurance doesn’t do any good if people can’t afford the coverage to start.”

MaineToday Media State House Writer Rebekah Metzler can be contacted at 620-7016 or at: [email protected]