Inspirational Advocacy, With RESOLVE

Levine holds an award against a backdrop showing the Resolve logo.
Courtesy RESOLVE
Risa Levine ’83

Risa Levine ’83 is often called an infertility warrior. Though she’s never given birth, she’s devoted to helping other women and families deal with complicated, often devastating fertility issues. 

The New York City real estate attorney became an infertility advocate in 2004 while struggling with her own fertility diagnosis. She has served on the board of directors of RESOLVE: The National Infertility Association since 2011.

Over the years, she has worked to support federal insurance coverage for infertility treatment. She promoted the recognition of infertility as a disease and the provision of in vitro fertilization coverage for veterans. In April, as the lead advocate for RESOLVE, she was instrumental in getting IVF coverage included in the New York state budget, giving 2.5 million New Yorkers access to treatment.

This fall, Levine was doubly honored for her advocacy. RESOLVE presented her with its 2019 Barbara Eck Founder’s Award at the group’s Night of Hope gala in New York. The group also announced it was creating a new award, the RESOLVE Advocacy Legacy Award, in honor of Levine (“RESOLVE Advocacy Legacy” shortens to “RAL,” Levine’s initials). A tribute video recorded by Hillary Clinton accompanied the announcement.   

The new award honors volunteerism, civic engagement and mentoring — pursuits, Levine says, that echo Brandeis’ mission as well as her experiences as an undergrad. “When they told me they were naming an award after me and started to describe what the award was, I began to cry,” she says. “I kept saying, ‘You guys really get me.’”

“Simply put, we need more Risa Levines,” says RESOLVE president and CEO Barbara Collura. “We need volunteer leaders who mentor others and inspire others to raise their voices. We hope to honor future leaders who are following in Risa’s footsteps, even if they are not wearing her amazing high-heeled shoes.” 

About 10% of women of childbearing age in the United States (or 6.1 million people) have difficulty getting or staying pregnant, according to U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention figures. 

Levine’s own experience with fertility treatment did not end as she’d hoped. She endured 10 unsuccessful IVF cycles and four miscarriages. She later fought a losing battle during a divorce for custody of her frozen embryos; she is now committed to obtaining a legislative change that would enable a woman to keep her embryos.

If issues around infertility were “important enough for me to fight for while I was trying to have a baby,” she says, they “had to be just as important when I failed. Even more so.”

Levine, who has chaired RESOLVE’s Advocacy Day on Capitol Hill five times, is active in Democratic politics. She served on the finance committee of Kirsten Gillibrand’s recent presidential campaign, and played a similar role in support of Hillary Clinton’s presidential bids in 2008 and 2016.

“Encouraging people — especially women — to advocate for themselves, to get off the sidelines and pursue a better world, to speak truth to power is something I love doing,” says Levine, who serves as a vice president on the Brandeis Alumni Association board of directors.

“I didn’t feel comfortable telling my friends I was going through infertility treatment,” she says, but “I was chasing down legislators to tell them they needed to introduce legislation.

“It takes a really long time to change laws, to change minds. When I look at what we have accomplished, we have come a long way.”

— Mark Sullivan