Selling Art: An Empirical Assessment of Advertising on Fertility Clinics’ Websites

33 Pages Posted: 26 Oct 2012 Last revised: 23 Jul 2013

Jim Hawkins

University of Houston Law Center

Date Written: October 26, 2012

Abstract

Scholarship on assisted reproductive technologies (ART) has emphasized the commercial nature of the interaction between fertility patients and their physicians, but little attention has been paid to precisely how clinics persuade patients to choose their clinic over their competitors. This Article offers evidence about how clinics sell ART based on clinics’ advertising on their websites. To assess clinics’ marketing efforts, I coded advertising information on 372 fertility clinics’ websites. The results from the study confirm some suspicions of prior ART scholarship, while contradicting others. For instance, in line with scholars who are concerned that racial minorities face barriers to accessing ART, I found that 97.28% of the websites that contain pictures of babies have pictures of White babies, and 62.93% have pictures of only White babies. Similarly, in agreement with prior work that challenges the effectiveness of self-regulation, I find low levels of compliance with industry-sponsored advertising regulations. Contrary to the assumption held almost universally in the literature on ART, however, I found that clinics do not prioritize advertising their success rates. Clinics’ websites are more likely to emphasize several other attributes of care instead of their success rates. In light of the new data uncovered by the study, I conclude by offering new regulatory directions for policymakers to consider as they try to keep up with changes in the fertility business.

Keywords: fertility business, consumer protection, advertising law

Suggested Citation

Hawkins, Jim, Selling Art: An Empirical Assessment of Advertising on Fertility Clinics’ Websites (October 26, 2012). 88 Indiana Law Journal 1147 (2013); U of Houston Law Center No. 2013-A-2. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2167409

Jim Hawkins (Contact Author)

University of Houston Law Center ( email )

4604 Calhoun Road
Houston, TX 77204-6060
United States

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