Debora Spar, a professor of business administration and an associate dean at the Harvard business school, has recently published Baby Business: How Money, Science and Politics Drive the Commerce of Conception. She is interested in trends in economies and rules of exchange that come in the wake of new technologies, like satellite television, the Internet, and now, IVF. At first, she says, “people get all excited, where there are no rules, and which creates new markets. Over time, these technologies become regulated because people want and need rules.” And the infertility business is interesting to her because in the US is a 3-billion-dollar-a-year sector. According to the author, in this interview anyway, there is nothing more to this business but supply and demand: 15% of the population is infertile, and this represents a high constant demand, and the price of ova, especially those of Harvard grads, has remained high because there is short supply. The average cost of a baby is well over $50,000.
More messy questions include that of whether the therapies ought to be considered enhancements because most infertility is not a disease of the woman who undergoes the treatment. For example, a couple’s infertility may be attributed to male factor infertility, in a heterosexual couple; and, a single woman or a woman in a same sex partnership desiring to be pregnant requires assisted reproduction, IVF being the most common, in order to conceive . Thus a woman who undergoes IVF treatment may herself be reproductively healthy. One could also hold the view that most female infertility may be a social construct; a position that gains support in light of the billion dollar IVF industry in the US, that most women in heterosexual infertile couples would be willing to adopt a child, and the message that having a biological child is considered necessary in order for a woman to realize her "true" potential as a woman.
In the end, even if one considers women’s infertility a disease of the woman who undergoes the treatment, therapy for IVF is time consuming, invasive, and potentially harmful, costly, and most likely is will not be successful. Maybe economists haven't been looking at what supports the billion dollar infertility industry and IVF, but ethicists have.