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Restorative Reproductive Medicine and Its Role in Women’s Health

The topic of infertility has received unprecedented attention in national politics since February, when the Alabama Supreme Court held that for the purposes of the state’s wrongful death of a minor statute, frozen embryos are considered persons.

Until now, Congress has focused primarily on in vitro fertilization—where egg and sperm are combined to create an embryo in a lab. For many couples, however, one or both persons have suffered many years with reproductive health conditions, which are the leading cause of infertility.

On June 13, Republican Sens. Cindy Hyde-Smith of Mississippi and James Lankford of Oklahoma introduced the Reproductive Empowerment and Support Through Optimal Restoration Act, which aims to ensure that women (and their doctors) have the tools they need to understand their reproductive health conditions.

The RESTORE Act offers a dual approach to reproductive health care in the United States. First, given the lack of research and information about restorative reproductive medicine treatments, the legislation directs the Department of Health and Human Services, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Health to conduct research and provide ongoing reports on the use and effectiveness of restorative reproductive medicine to treat reproductive health conditions and infertility.

Second, the RESTORE Act would expand existing grant eligibility under Title X and the HHS Office of Population Affairs to medical students and practitioners who are interested in—or already practice—restorative reproductive medicine. Such grants often exclude or fail to offer medical professionals’ adequate access to training and resources on how to diagnose and treat reproductive health conditions and infertility.

Restorative reproductive medicine is an umbrella term that refers to any medical treatments that aim to identify, diagnose, and treat the underlying causes of infertility. Infertility is not a disease in and of itself, but rather, one symptom of reproductive health conditions.

Restorative reproductive medicine treats endometriosis, adenomyosis, polycystic ovary syndrome, uterine fibroids, blocked fallopian tubes, hormone imbalances, low sperm count, and low sperm motility. Typically, a couple’s infertility is the result of four or more of these overlapping conditions.

The Restore Act is important because the state of restorative reproductive medicine in America today is dismal.

Right now, it takes an average of six to 12 years for a woman to receive a diagnosis for endometriosis, one of the leading causes of infertility in the United States.

Polycystic ovary syndrome affects about 15% of all women and a much higher percentage of women with a diagnosis of infertility. These women are often prescribed oral contraceptives that suppress, rather than heal, the disease.

Similarly, researchers estimate that 1 in 4 women with a diagnosis of infertility have blocked fallopian tubes, rendering it difficult or impossible to conceive and gestate a child.

These are only three of the most common conditions, and yet, few women (or men) are even aware of them, much less empowered with the tools that they need to understand and treat these reproductive health conditions.

It’s time for that to change. Restorative reproductive medicine shouldn’t be a partisan issue.

In the post-Dobbs abortion landscape, the RESTORE Act represents a rare opportunity for Republicans and Democrats to work together to support women and the babies they are eager to bring into the world.

Editor’s note disclaimer: The author co-wrote model legislation on which the bill mentioned is loosely based.