Why Isn't Government Helping Women Have Kids?

11/03/2012 07:18 EDT | Updated 01/23/2014 06:58 EST

Working women, older parents are a reality of new economy and government policy needs to come of age.

Shocking as it sounds, it wasn't that long ago our daughters were told "a woman's place was in the kitchen." Just a generation or two ago, a woman in her 20s was actually expected to be "barefoot and pregnant."

Times have changed. Economic equality for woman is no longer just a desirable concept, it's an expectation.

In today's modern world we urge our daughters to "go to school," "be self-sufficient" and "get a career." And our daughters are listening. Participation rates are up dramatically in our universities over the past 30 years. Women now make up 56 per cent of our undergraduate university students and well over half of those pursuing post-graduate studies.

Along with that knowledge come careers, independence and success. The same is true of our boys. Enrollment in post-secondary studies has doubled. As part of our knowledge based global economy, most careers don't start out of high school, for most they begin four and often more years later.

The ripple effect on society and families has been enormous. Young adults are marrying later and a growing number are unable to even think about starting a family until they can afford to pay down student loans, buy a house and be in a position where a short break from the career doesn't leave them starting over when they return. For many, this economic reality is hardly a "choice."

As a result, for the first time ever the majority of women giving birth today are over the age of 30. Statistics Canada reports this is about two and a half time the percentage in 1974. This matters as a woman's fertility starts to decline at age 28. In fact, one in six couples trying to have a child are infertile.

Do these medical facts mean that we should stop encouraging women to be fully contributing members of our economy? Absolutely not! On the contrary, it means government policy must begin to keep pace with modern realities and available medical technologies.

Despite an expert panel's recommendation of IVF coverage in Ontario three years ago, Quebec remains the only province currently helping infertile couples get the medical treatments they need to start their families.

The Quebec program has proven widely popular and have significantly reduced the number of multiple births resulting in a long-term net savings to cash strapped health care systems.

Provincial health coverage of IVF is good health policy, good fiscal policy and great politics for progressive politicians interested in finding real solutions to the challenges facing working women and their families. Only time will tell if the politicians are listening.