The article addresses everything from age limits, financial policies, marital status, and HIV status. Read more:
Fertility Clinics Have Differing Policies (PregnancyCrawler.com)
A whopping 80 percent of clinics had customers meet with financial coordinators, but only 18 percent had them see a social worker or psychologist.
"Assisted reproductive technologies are too driven by the desires of couples and not enough by the interests of children," said Arthur Caplan, bioethics chairman at the University of Pennsylvania and one of the survey's authors.
Results were published Tuesday in Fertility and Sterility, a journal of the American Society for Reproductive Medicine.
Answering hypothetical questions, most American clinics said they'd help a 43-year-old get pregnant. One in five would refuse single women, but 5 percent don't even ask about marital status. One in four would help a woman who has the AIDS (news - web sites) virus.
"A gay couple and a couple on welfare were about equally likely to be turned away," said Andrea Gurmankin, a Harvard School of Public Health psychologist who led the study when she worked at the University of Pennsylvania.
One in 10 American couples is infertile, and their ability to get medical help to have children depends on a host of subjective criteria and attitudes about parenthood by fertility clinic operators, researchers found.
About 100,000 pregnancy attempts are made each year using in vitro fertilization, in which eggs and sperm are mixed in a lab dish and the resulting embryos are implanted in the womb. More than 177,000 babies have been born this way in the United States.
Researchers sent surveys to directors of 369 clinics or doctors' offices offering these services across the country; 210 responded.
On average, they turn away only 4 percent of potential customers each year. Only 28 percent had formal policies on who they'd accept or deny.
Asked if they believed that everyone has a right to have a child, 59 percent said yes. Two-thirds believe they have a responsibility to consider parents' fitness before helping them conceive.
Medical conditions evoked different responses. Only 1 percent said they wouldn't help Jehovah's witnesses conceive, presumably because they refuse blood transfusions that might be necessary for the mother or child.
"Three percent said they were unwilling to deal with a blind couple. We thought that was fascinating," Caplan said.
However, only 59 percent flat out refused to treat a woman with HIV (news - web sites), the virus that causes AIDS.
"I don't think the customers, or patients, understand how variable the values are," Caplan said. One clinic might refuse you, but "just down the road is another place that might take you."