While most radio show call-in contests have prizes like concerts and movie screenings, one Florida station is giving away something else: The possibility of a baby.
Technically, 103.9 FM in Fort Myers, Florida — the station behind the giveaway — is advertising it as a “Win a Baby” contest. But it’s important to point out that this name is misleading: Whoever wins this contest isn’t handed a fully formed human baby child that is theirs for keeps. In actuality, the radio station will cover the costs of one round of IVF (retail value: approximately $20,000) for one couple struggling with infertility. There is no guarantee this will result in a baby. In fact, there is a 29.5 percent live-birth rate for the first cycle of IVF.
And this isn’t a giveaway to the 100th caller: In order to be considered for the prize, a couple must make a four-minute video that, according to the contest’s official rules, “will be judged on the content of the story and the compelling manner in which each video entry tells the story of the entrants and their desire for a baby as solely determined by the judges.”
The contest stems from the experience of one of the radio station’s hosts — Jason “Big Mama” Jones — who along with his wife is attempting IVF to conceive at a fertility clinic called IVFMD in Naples, Florida. According to the station’s website, “now they want to take a lucky couple on this amazing journey of in vitro fertilization.” If you want to enter, you need to be at least 21 years old and reside in Lee, Collier, Charlotte, Glades, Hendry, Sarasota or Manatee counties in the Fort Myers area. Contestants must upload their videos by 11:59 p.m. on Nov. 24.
While at first, this may appear to be a strange, even ethically dubious, contest, it’s actually not that far-fetched. For instance, people have been turning to other nontraditional ways of covering IVF expenses, like using crowdfunding platforms like GoFundMe or Kickstarter.
The contest shares a common trait with these fertility treatment crowdfunding campaigns: The creation and presentation of a compelling narrative to prove why they deserve to be parents. This does have the potential to become problematic, as couples in both circumstances may feel the need to prove they’re the “perfect victim” — in other words, that they’ve done everything right medically and financially, but despite that still can’t afford their dream of having children. It also excludes those who may not have the means to create a winning video.
Along the same lines, it’s important to keep in mind that while technology surrounding assisted reproduction is always advancing, it’s still financially out of reach for many. Is giving people the option of having their IVF expenses covered by winning a radio contest really that problematic?
Again, it doesn’t solve existing inequities in the health care system or even guarantee the winning couple will walk away with a baby, but it might mean that two people who would like to be biological and genetic parents get that opportunity.