For most of us, the ability to have a baby seems a given, until it’s not. Despite the fact that millions of men and women worldwide are unable to naturally conceive and carry a baby to term, for fear of judgment or heartache or both, infertility stories are largely kept secret. During the making of VEGAS BABY I filmed with American couples who “came out” about their infertility in hopes of winning a contest for treatment.
Many other developed countries consider infertility a serious medical condition and offer some level of coverage for infertility, but treatment in the U.S. is very costly and rarely covered by insurance (never mind that the World Health Organization classified infertility as a legitimate disease in 2009). As the technology advances at a breakneck pace, debates about reproductive medicine – the ethical boundaries, who should have access to it, who should pay for it – are exploding across the developed world.
My connection to this subject matter is intensely personal and particularly timely. Over the last five years, my husband and I have struggled with our own infertility issues, during which he was diagnosed with testicular cancer. I was shocked by my ignorance about my own fertility, and bowled over by the financial and emotional costs of treatment.
The family-building options for people like us are either reproductive medicine or adoption, both of which can be financially daunting and emotionally harrowing. And because reproductive medicine is dominated by for-profit clinics reliant on marketing rather than insurance contracts, patients are often left feeling particularly vulnerable and alone.
It was in researching possible solutions to my own situation that I came across Dr. Sher’s contest. This competition struck me as a perfectly absurd distillation of the overwhelming world of reproductive medicine in which I found myself; I knew right away that this was a film I had to make. Sher’s contest is a provocative narrative device that allowed me to follow a diverse group of people from across the country on an intense emotional journey; the heart of the film is my exploration of universal themes of desire and loss. By humanizing the individual struggles of those who choose to build a family through IVF but cannot afford it, my goal is to ignite a conversation about the flipside of reproductive choice: the choice to have a child.
-Amanda Micheli, Director