This clinic's contest to win a baby may hit close to home for many couples.
People who struggle with infertility need our support.
If you wanted a child and couldn't have one, what measures would you take to make it happen?
Amanda Micheli took an intimate look at this question and couples' quests to have a child in "haveababy," a documentary that centers around patients at a Las Vegas fertility clinic. Each year, the clinic hosts I Believe, a YouTube-based competition that gives one of several hundred couples a chance at undergoing an in vitro fertilization (IVF) treatment.
OK, we know what you’re thinking. Why on Earth is there a contest to win a baby?
The idea of pitting couples against each other to compete for the opportunity to have a child seems kinda, well, abhorrent, but the reason for entering the contest is understandable. Most of us would probably agree with the founder of the clinic, Geoffrey Sher, and his statement that "For those that say that there shouldn't be a contest, I agree. There should be insurance. But that's not how the world works."
Infertility is not uncommon, and if you desperately want children but don't have tens of thousands of dollars to spare for fertilization treatments or adoption, there aren't a lot of options.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 6% of married women at peak fertility age are unable to get pregnant after a year of unprotected sex. Contrary to outdated stigmas, about 7.5% of all sexually experienced men under the age of 45 — or about 3.3 to 4.7 million men — reached out to a fertility doctor during their lifetime.
Thanks to some awesome breaks in medicine, couples who have trouble conceiving have a variety of other ways to approach having a child. But just how accessible are these options?
The average cost of a basic IVF treatment starts at about $12,000. That’s not including the extra $3,000 to $5,000 for necessary medications needed during the strenuous process.
With the current American household income at about $51,939, it’s not difficult to understand why couples are looking for different — and less expensive — ways to approach IVF.
It's not only heterosexual couples who struggle with the costs of IVF. Same-sex couples and single want-to-be parents are looking for various options to have a child too, but the daunting price tag makes this journey increasingly difficult.
While medicine has certainly made huge strides, many of these options aren’t covered under the majority of health insurance.
The IVF process, which takes upward of six weeks, currently has a per-cycle success rate of roughly 40% for women with top chances of success and 20% to 35% for the average woman. That means that couples may have to go through this costly procedure multiple times.
Currently, the Affordable Care Act does not require coverage for infertility treatments, although 15 states have laws that require varying levels of insurance coverage for infertility treatments.
Adoption, an alternative that some families might consider, also carries a hefty price tag. Families pay an average of $40,121 to adopt a child from a traditional agency.
In addition, the stigmas surrounding infertility, though antiquated, still carry weight in our society’s understanding of the ability to reproduce.
The mental toll of infertility and the accompanying stigmas drain a lot of couples; infertile couples even have a higher rate of divorce. For years, most of the public thought infertility was a women’s issue. Women trying to get pregnant felt a sense of shame and failure, as though they’d somehow failed their biological duties. These stigmas couldn't be further from the truth and make a painful situation even worse for those who already feel shame and frustration because they are unable to start their own family.
The creator of "haveababy," Amanda Micheli, explained to Elle magazine, "As painful as it was for the subjects to put themselves out there, they did it because they wanted to help others understand what it's like to go through this. It's such a misunderstood and isolating experience because nobody talks about it."
To deny a couple that has spent more than a year trying to conceive the opportunity to engage in the joys of parenthood is not only heartbreaking — it’s preventable.
Couples seeking the joy of parenting deserve the opportunity to try and have a child — without having to compete for it. When we support couples in their IVF journeys and find creative ways to help those who can't afford it, we pave the way for a happier society.
That's something we can all get behind.
Amanda Micheli's "haveababy" is being shown at the Tribeca Film Festival as part of its Viewpoints section. Films in Viewpoints take on social issues, zooming in on topics that sometimes feel a little far away from some people but are incredibly close to others.