It 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.