Fueled by the apparent bitterness of two unsuccessful infertility patients, a conference designed to help infertile individuals become educated patients, has found itself under unceasing attack from many corners of the media. The conference, Fertility Planit, takes place on Sunday, Sept. 15 in New York City.
Authors Miriam Zoll and Pamela Tsigdinos are best known for writing autobiographical memoirs about their failed infertility treatment and the negative impact reproductive technology had on their relationships and lives. The two teamed up to write, “Selling the Fantasy of Fertility,” a recent op-ed published in the New York Times on the Fertility Planit conference. Part diatribe on the ills of reproductive medicine and part indictment of the conference’s focus on hope and empowerment, the op-ed, which appeared on Sept. 11, makes much of the unfortunate truth of fertility technology’s shortfalls and way-less-than-perfect success rates. The authors go on to cite what they consider a misleading and mercenary agenda by the conference’s organizers, portrayed as capitalizing upon the vulnerability of patients whom, in Zoll and Tsigdinos’ opinion, are little more than “fertility junkies, fueled by magical thinking and under the spell of the industry’s seductive powers.”
Those involved in the conference would heartily disagree. “Throughout my own years of trying to create a family, I yearned for a resource that could support me in finding information, support and inspiration, no matter where I was in my journey, or how my life circumstances changed,” says Karin Thayer, Founder and CEO of Fertility Planit. “By bringing together experts and thought leaders from the fields of adoption, health and wellness and genetic screening, as well as from fertility medicine, we help to stimulate conversation and empower people to make their own right choices for building families,” she adds. Thayer is one of the lucky ones, having conceived a son naturally after many failed IVF attempts.
Despite Thayer’s stated, pro-active support of the patient community, the op-ed has been seized upon by a multitude of right-wing writers, creating a feeding-frenzy over Zoll and Tsigdinos’ indictment of the infertility industry in order to fulfill an anti-abortion agenda, critical of the use of in vitro fertilization and the frozen embryos often produced via treatment.
Abortion is not referenced in the op-ed, which is interesting for the facts it lacks as well as for the vitriol it spews. Fertility Planit’s inclusion of the adoption option and focus on the need for emotional support, would appear to contradict the two author’s statement about the “lack of an obvious off-ramp within the world of reproductive medicine” as well as “society’s shaming and condemnation of those who recognize that their fertility fantasy is over.” While the world at large may often be less than kind to those who yearn to build their families and can’t, most professionals within the field know better and are compassionate to those who find themselves childless after many years of treatment.
At its heart, “Selling the Fantasy of Fertility” brings to the surface a very sad story of two women who did not get the thing they wanted most in life and were unable to find grace in the world they created for themselves in lieu of it.