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Parents compete for a free IVF

Infertility is heartbreaking and can be emotionally and financially draining. A fertility clinic stepped in to seemingly save the day with a contest where parents competed for one of three free IVF treatments.

Was this contest a gesture of goodwill, or did it exploit the couples who desperately wanted a child?

The Sher Fertility Institute recently held a video contest where prospective parents-to-be entered a video explaining why they deserved a baby, and then their entries were judged by a panel in hopes of receiving a free IVF treatment. Forty-five couples entered, three won — each with their own tale of struggle and heartbreak. Does such a contest speak of generosity and raise awareness of infertility, or is it cruel and exploitative?

The contest

Couples were not given specific instructions for entering the contest — they were simply told to submit a video that explained why they were deserving of a baby. The tone, direction and voice of the video were all up to the entrants, but all had a common thread — the desire for a baby, and the inability to have a child on their own. The entries were voted upon by a panel of judges, who sent their favorite entries to the institute. The finalists were judged again, this time by what amounted to a popularity contest on Facebook.

Playing God

Many felt that the institute — and the judges — were playing God, and it was unfair to require parents-to-be to compete with one another in hopes of having a baby. “It felt like playing God,” said judge Erika Tabke, who runs IVF Connections, a website for people going through infertility. “Who’s more worthy? Whose loss is more tragic? Who are any of us to judge each other?”

Why bother?

Some folks feel that if you’re not able to reproduce on your own, you should simply give up or adopt. “If your body does not want you to reproduce, why should you spend a bunch of money and heartache to produce a child that has a good chance of inheriting your difficulty?” asked a commenter on Time’s article.

Publicity stunt

Others felt that the contest was a publicity stunt and nothing more. “Just another morally bankrupt doctor/businessman taking advantage of someone’s misfortune and circumstances for publicity,” shared another poster. Jasmine, mother of two, agreed. “I wonder if the clinic has anything in mind other than profit,” she told us.

Sher should be applauded

“I was also a participant in this contest but wasn’t chosen partly because I already had a child with the help of IVF,” wrote Bobby Franco on the Time website. “Sher Institute should be commended for putting on this contest and giving 45 hopefuls a chance at starting a family instead of being scrutinized for it.”

There haven’t been any reports of hard feelings from the couples who weren’t selected — in fact, most of them reflect Bobby’s views in that they were grateful for the opportunity. And it’s no small prize, either — IVF can run around $20,000 a cycle. Hopefully the winners have successful IVF treatments and those who weren’t selected can have their dreams come true, in one way or another.

See one of the winning entries

More on infertility

Birth photos: Motherhood after overcoming infertility
Secondary infertility: The missing sibling
Infertility: Is your thyroid to blame?

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