White Baby Guaranteed or Your Money Back

December 7th, 2012

The majority of fertility clinics use emotional content to promote their services, yet tend to shy away from cold, hard facts, such as pricing and insurance information, according to a new study to be published in the Indiana Law Journal.

The study, conducted by University of Houston Assistant Law Professor Jim Hawkins, assessed how clinics persuade patients to choose their services over competitors.

Hawkins concluded that more needs to be done to encourage truthful advertising by the fertility industry, which generates in excess of $4 billion in gross revenues each year. His study also confirmed concerns that racial minorities are underrepresented in accessing assisted reproductive technology.

In the study, detailed in Selling ART: An Empirical Assessment of Advertising on Fertility Clinics’ Websites,  Hawkins assessed 372 fertility clinic websites. He found that about two-thirds of those have pictures of only white babies on their sites.

“The government and the industry both have a role to play in encouraging responsible practices,” he said.

His research found that:

  • 79% of websites have baby pictures on their home pages.  Of those sites, 97% contain pictures of white babies, and 63% only had pictures of white babies.
  • 30% of sites used the word “dream” on the home page.
  • 9% used the word “miracle.”
  • Only 27% list prices for in-vitro fertilization (“IVF”), and the majority of sites don’t provide any pricing information at all.
  • A mere 16% of clinics advertise insurance on their home or about pages.
  • 35% of websites advertised IVF refund programs.

“In agreement with prior work that challenges the effectiveness of self-regulation, I find low levels of compliance with industry-sponsored advertising regulations,” he said.

Given that the average cost of an IVF cycle is $12,400 and its success rate tops out at a mere 35%, it only seems fair that clinics refrain from pulling on the heart strings of desperate couples, and simply lay out the facts (sans pictures of adorable babies).

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