Dea Birkett at the Guardian unloads:
The media hate assisted motherhood. Women who simply want a little help to have a baby are portrayed as unnatural, evil and downright selfish. Earlier this week, the Daily Mail headlined on two women who’d had IVF treatment – one single, one Nigerian – who were “milking the NHS”. In the next column, it was joyfully revealed that Kate Middleton hoped to have a baby. Ironically, rearing a royal costs the taxpayer millions. But that’s a bill we seem to be prepared to pay.
When the budget for breeding is drawn up, it’s always assisted conception that’s highlighted as the most dispensable. As health costs are cut, fewer health authorities are offering free cycles; others are imposing more restrictions on who’s entitled to receive them. Infertile women aren’t deemed worthy of public money. Even multiple birth organisations distinguish between deserving and undeserving parents. One emailed asking if anyone could donate a triple buggy to a new mother of three “conceived naturally”, implying she was worthy of such charity. If she’d had IVF triplets, it would just be her fault.
Yet the IVF price tag is a pittance in the total public bill for raising a child. It costs the state an average of £126,000 for one child’s education alone. If a scan in pregnancy reveals a foetus has half a heart, the NHS quite rightly uses all its resources to try to make that baby better. The cost of an IVF cycle is insignificant in comparison, around £5,000 – a tiny percentage of the overall parenting price tag.
The anti-IVF preachers’ sums just don’t add up. For this leave-it-to-nature lobby ignores wider economic factors. By definition, an IVF baby is desperately wanted. A baby carefully conceived after much planning in a Petri dish is perhaps less likely to draw on social welfare than one casually brought about accidentally. So if cost is the main consideration, all babies should be brought into being through assisted conception acronyms – IVF (in vitro fertilisation), ICSI (intracytoplasmic sperm injection), and PGD (pre-implantation genetic diagnosis) among them. That way the overall pull on the public purse would be considerably reduced.
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