Anyone who has been a responsible children’s caregiver has at least tried to teach the difference between a need and a want. They could be at the mall facing a child throwing a tantrum over candy or a teddy bear that they don’t want to share with their siblings. They persistently bellow with such intensity that a witness could think the child was starving. But in reality they don’t need the ice cream, videogames, or iPads that they whine about getting; they want them.
Our needs and wants mature and persistently follow us into adulthood. We continually learn to file them into their respective categories, whether they be a house, a new car, or a vacation. Some desires are complex and inborn. For example, many adults eventually feel the desire to have a family. Unfortunately, some cannot biologically fulfill this goal: studies indicate that up to 15% of couples of childbearing age are infertile. This can be a very disappointing reality to face for those who want to be parents. Some people of means have been turning to IVF (in vitro fertilization) as a solution, and it is quite costly.
The average cost of one cycle of IVF is $12,400, and the chances of the first cycle working are one in three. In spite of these hurdles, the growing American infertility industry grossed $3.5 billion in 2012. Fertility drugs alone grossed 1 billion worldwide with half of that coming from America. Since its initial success in 1978, more than 5 million babies have been produced via IVF worldwide. Fertility treatments have created about 50,000 babies a year in the United States. The recession had a minor impact on this business. In fact, the number of IVF procedures has tripled in the past 15 years, and 61, 740 babies were born in the US through IVF in 2012.
Meanwhile, there are 153 million orphans worldwide. The annual rate of adoption cannot compete with the rate of children created through IVF: in 2012, American families adopted about 7,000 children. Adopted children make up a mere 2% of the total child population. Over 58,000 orphans were put in group homes or institutions instead of traditional foster homes. A meta-analysis of 75 studies shows that children raised in orphanages have an IQ 20 points lower than their peers in foster care.
Unfortunately, foster care does not provide a stable environment for children. About 397,122 children are living without permanent families in the foster care system. 101,666 of these children are eligible for adoption, but nearly 32% of these children will wait over three years in foster care before being adopted. 55% of these children have had three or more placements. An earlier study found that 33% of children had changed elementary schools at least five times.
In 2012, 23,396 young adults aged out of the foster care system lacking basic life skills. 40% had been homeless, 50% engaged in substance abuse, and 17% of females were pregnant. Only 48% were employed. Nearly 25% of youth aging out did not have a high school diploma or GED, and a mere 6% had finished a two- or four-year degree after aging out of foster care.
These children need homes. Whereas those who can afford an in vitro baby are doing so because they want a child who will reflect their genetic make-up. There is a narcissism that fuels reproduction. Instead of crying for their own teddy bear, these grown adults are seeking their biological offspring at fertility clinics. The fertility industry profits off this self-entitled demand at the expense of millions of children deprived of families.
When an expecting mother feels a life growing inside her, it is a powerful and understandably coveted experience. It is a privilege and not a right, however. Technology, money, and biological impetus have obscured this distinction. One can only hope that children produced through IVF fall far from the tree and learn to identify their own greed and vanity. Parents, after all, are supposed to want their children to be better than they are.