The Project's Carrie Bickmore moved by woman's 'heartbreaking' IVF plea

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Carrie Bickmore and her co-hosts on The Project were visibly moved on Tuesday night while discussing the 'heartbreaking' reality of the Victorian Government's three-month ban on IVF procedures.

The panel was joined by Melbourne IVF patient Melanie Swieconek and her partner Mauricio Graf, after Melanie's tearful video appeal to lift the ban went viral over the weekend.

Carrie Bickmore wearing a white dress on The Project. Photo: Channel 10.
The Project's Carrie Bickmore was visibly moved by a woman's 'heartbreaking' reaction to Victoria's IVF ban. Photo: Channel 10.

IVF plea 'heartbreaking to watch'

Melanie, 45, took to Instagram to implore Victorian Premier Dan Andrews and Health Minister Martin Foley to exclude fertility treatments from January 12th's ban on non-urgent elective surgery.

The 'Code Brown' measures were implemented to free up more health resources amid the Omicron outbreak, but Melanie argued that IVF was not a 'non-urgent' procedure and should be allowed to continue.

Over 700,000 people have since viewed Melanie's video which Carrie said was "heartbreaking to watch", particularly because Melanie has undergone five rounds of IVF since starting last year.

She told Carrie that she was 'absolutely gobsmacked' when she heard the news of the 90 day IVF ban last Friday via social media.

"I couldn't believe what I was reading and funnily enough, it wasn't something that was announced through the media. I think [Victoria Health] did a bit of a sneaky and just alerted the fertility specialists and they were the ones to send out information on social media," she said.

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Melanie Swieconek and her partner Mauricio Graf on The Project. Photo: Channel 10.
Melbourne couple Melanie Swieconek and Mauricio Graf talked about the impact of the IVF ban The Project. Photo: Channel 10.

Melanie went on to explain why her IVF appointments were so urgent and the devastating impact skipping even one round of treatment would have on her ability to conceive.

"I'm 45 and the fertility specialists actually stop treatment at 46. I turn 46 in October so to have three months just stolen from me, and that's how I feel it is, I still don't have any words.

"I need every month and every cycle I can get."

When asked by Lisa Wilkinson about the fallout from the ban announcement, Mauricio described the huge emotional toll it's taken on the couple and his feelings of helplessness about the state-wide decision.

Melanie told Tommy Little that many people don't realise that IVF is considered an elective treatment even though it's often the 'last resort' to have a child.

"This is our last opportunity. We have tried, we truly have tried everything else. And most people have even gone through other procedures before they get to IVF. So this really is our last resort."

To Melanie and Mauricio's surprise, Tommy mentioned there was a 'glimmer of hope' that the state government may resume IVF services as quickly as possible.

"If that is the case, I am beside myself," a beaming Melissa said. "I will just keep pushing more, I will keep doing whatever I need to do to make that happen."

Acting Health Minister James Merlino said on Tuesday that the government was working to resume IVF services "as quickly as possible".

"I've got some dear friends currently going through IVF or have been through IVF. So I know what an emotional toll it is, what a financial toll it is," he said.

"This is in many cases a last opportunity to create a family for themselves so I am absolutely empathetic.

The moment we can boost or return to services for IVF patients we will absolutely do so."

Victoria health has been contacted for comment.

A screenshot of Melanie Swieconek's video and a photo of Angie Kent on The Bachelorette. Photo: Instagram.
Angie Kent has reacted to Melanie's moving video. Photo: Instagram.

Celebs 'speechless' over viral video

The Project hosts weren't the only famous faces to get behind Melanie's plea. The Bachelorette star Angie Kent shared the video on her Instagram Stories with the caption, "What is going on? I'm speechless."

Mum-of-two Laura Byrne did the same, pointing out that while women's fertility was sidelined a major sporting event such as the Australian Open was allowed to continue in the same state.

"IVF treatments in Melbourne have been banned for 3 months but don't worry you can go to the tennis!" the former Bachelor star wrote.

Laura's Life Uncut podcast co-host, Britt Hockley, remarked, "Infertility is not a choice. This is insane," on her account.

A screenshot of Melanie Swieconek's video and a photo of Laura Byrne with her two young daughters. Photo: Instagram.
Laura Byrne pointed out the irony of the situation. Photo: Instagram.

In her video, Melanie spoke directly to Premier Dan Andrews and Health Minister Martin Foley, asking them to think about the IVF process and the effect of what pausing it for three months would look like.

"I really just wanted to let you know that this is not something that I elected to do, and not one other person who was going through IVF or who has been through IVF, or who's just about to start IVF has elected to do," she said tearfully.

"We have tried everything else," she said. "Trust me. We have tried everything else."

Melanie asked Mr Andrews and Mr Foley to go home and "erase" every single trace of their children, asking them to put themselves in her, and many other women's positions.

"Have a look around and then empty it mentally; delete any trace of children in your house," she said.

Two screenshots from video of Melanie tearfully talking to camera about her need for IVF treatment.
Melanie tearfully asked the government to reconsider the pause of IVF treatment in Victoria. Source: Instagram

"It's awful and it's odd. It's weird. It doesn't make sense, but it is exactly what you are asking us to do —exactly what you're forcing us to do. It doesn't make any sense at all.

"[This is] just one woman's perspective," she concluded the video.

"Don't forget one in eight women are going through infertility."

90 days might make the difference between conceiving or not

Dr Lynn Burmeister from Number One Fertility in Melbourne said each month when going through IVF is "precious" and can't just be "turned on and off like a tap."

"Three months might make the difference between them having a baby or not," she told Yahoo News Australia.

"The patient has undergone counselling and nurse appointments, they've picked up their expensive medication; it's not just something that can just stopped and started like this."

Dr Burmeister added that the hospital staff that work in IVF clinics don't work on Covid wards, so when treatment is paused they're forced to use thier annual leave.

"They're not impacting the Covid patient management, keeping IVF going," she said.

"It's not elective. It should never be called elective. I don't know how it ended up in the category of elective because it's not."

Additional reporting by Emily Lefroy.

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