BERLIN, May 17, 2011 (LifeSiteNews.com) - Family minister Kristina Schröder announced last week that Germany is planning to subsidize IVF treatments in an attempt to increase the country’s sharply declining birthrate.
Germany has one of the lowest birthrates in Europe, about 1.46 children per woman, well below the replacement level of 2.1, with parts of the depressed former Communist areas having the world’s lowest birthrates.
In an interview with Germany’s Sueddeutsche Zeitung, Mrs. Schröder said it was “intolerable” that couples want to have children but can’t afford the cost of artificial conception treatment.
IVF treatments cost between US$5,000 and $7,500, with the age barrier in Germany set at 40. Statistics suggest that on average every fourth attempt is successful.
“I find it intolerable if the hope for children is dashed because of money,” she said. “I get many letters from couples who tell me how they scrape together the money, then despair when it doesn’t work, and start saving again – all that with the pressure of the biological clock ticking.”
Though she did not commit to an actual monetary figure, Mrs. Schröder promised more financial assistance for IVF treatments and increased opportunities for adoption.
“There is here a highly transparent connection between national policy and the number of births. Therefore we must do something,” said Mrs. Schröder.
However, a study published by the Rand Europe think tank in 2006 said that greater availability of IVF through government subsidy programs does very little to increase birth rates, and may, in fact, lead to a decrease in overall fertility.
The study noted that women in EU countries where IVF is heavily subsidized often delay childbearing until they have established themselves in a career, and find that when they do attempt to start a family they are not be able to have a child, even with IVF.
The report states that heavily subsidizing IVF “may actually have a negative effect on the [total fertility rate] and consequently lead to further ageing of the population,” if women use easily available IVF as a hedge against the natural decline of their fertility as they age.
The report also notes that children conceived by IVF and those born to older women have a higher rate of health problems associated with low birth weight and prematurity than children born to younger mothers and through natural conception.
“These health effects and other unintended consequences should be taken into account when assessing the impact of [assisted reproductive technology] as part of a population policy mix,” Rand Europe said.