As An Infertile Woman, I Have A Really Hard Time Getting Angry About IVF Raffles

jackpotIt is a bit jarring to receive an invitation for a raffle where the prize is a free round of in vitro fertilization. Most people who receive fertility treatments don’t do so lightly. It’s not like winning a goldfish at a county fair. People choose IVF because they’re trying to have a child. They’ve probably spent years attempting to have a child, going through the stress and pressure of trying to conceive. Couples who are desperate to have children take out bank loans, spend their savings, borrow from 401Ks to be able to afford IVF. To see it given away as a part of a marketing scheme is a little stomach-churning. And yet, I know that I would sign up for one of those IVF raffles in a heartbeat.

Today, the New York Times talked about the dubious practice of giving away free rounds of in vitro fertilization as a means of advertising. The practice has been condemned by officials in the UK. There’s a proposed law to ban the raffles in Australia. Here in the United States, it’s illegal to raffle off puppies, but not to have people enter into essay contests for the chance to have a baby. Ethicists worry that the raffles trivialize the sacred act of having a child.

I see what they’re all saying. But there’s still this part of me that would have a hard time turning down such a chance. IVF is such an expensive procedure and it’s so rarely covered by insurance. Reproductive technology has really become something of a luxury here in the United States. There are lots of families who would love the chance to utilize the medical breakthroughs, if only it wasn’t so expensive.

Pamela Madsen, a founder and former executive director of the American Fertility Association, told the New York Times, “What if they were raffling off chemotherapy? Would we be O.K. with that?” But she misses the obvious question. How would we feel if insurance was refusing to cover chemotherapy? There is an inherent difference here. Chemo saves lives. IVF creates new ones. Because that’s not seen as a necessity, plenty of insurance companies simply don’t cover infertility treatments.

It’s really not the IVF raffles that make this whole thing so upsetting. It’s the fact that fertility treatments have become inaccessible to those outside of a certain socioeconomic status. It’s the fact that those without $10,000 lying around in their couch cushions have very little options when it comes to growing their families. Both adoption and IVF are extremely expensive. We’re having to come to terms with the fact that for couples with infertility, finding a way to have a child is something of a luxury good.

That’s why these IVF raffles are so successful. And that’s why you’ll see very few infertile couples calling for them to come to an end. It’s like the lottery. We’re all just hoping to beat the odds. Sure, people can throw around IVF success rates and point out that you might not end up with a child after this process, but every TTC couple knows that. We’ve all gotten very familiar with our odds of conception on any given month. We know the statistics aren’t in our favor.

For women like me, signing up for an IVF raffle would be like every other month. You hope for the best, knowing that the odds are against you, but trying to stay optimistic that you’ll finally get some good news. Even the disappointment of not winning will be plenty familiar to any woman whose been struggling with infertility long enough to consider in vitro.

(Photo: Frank F. Haub/Shutterstock)

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  • Eileen

    I don’t have a problem with the raffles, although they seem a little weird. I also didn’t know you couldn’t raffle off puppies! IVF is certainly safer to raffle off than dogs. I doubt any woman would go through those procedures if she hadn’t thought it through, while many people buy dogs on a whim.

    But I also don’t think that insurance should be required to cover fertility issues in the same way they should be expected to cover chemo or other life-saving treatments. I’d rather try to keep costs down for people who want to be able to afford to see a doctor when they need one than cover all kinds of things that are nice and important to some people, but not necessary to a person’s health and make health insurance even more out of reach for companies and individuals. I think it’s more important to support the health and longevity of people who are already alive and suffering than to try to create more humans, given that infertility, no matter how personally devastating, is nowhere near a global problem.

  • bl

    I don’t see how this interferes with the “sacred”act of having a child. Goodness, 16-year-olds do it everyday. People forget to take their pills or say “let’s go for it”when they’re out of condoms and start their families that way. I do think having a child is a wonderful, beautiful thing, but what could be more sacred than giving someone the child they so desperately want but can’t have without medical and financial assistance? As long as the contests don’t take advantage of potentially desperate people and are run fairly, why not?

  • To Celebrate Women

    Since when is having a child sacred? Does that include adoption? Fertility assistance? Donor gametes? Or is it just modest heterosexual husbands and wives, doin’ it in the missionary position followed by a handshake? Surely it doesn’t matter how we get here, or how our families are formed. What happens after you are born is much, much, much more important. And if a raffle means that someone who wants it is closer to forming a family, good!