A viral video of a gay couple discussing how they chose an egg supplier to create a child shows how the process of commissioning life using reproductive technologies can be easily reduced to a transaction that takes physical features and behaviors into account with little regard for the well-being of the supplier.
“We wanted [the egg donor] to have lovely big eyes. I wanted her to have really thick hair because I’ve had two hair transplants. I wanted her to have a really wide nice smile and just look like a kind person. And we wanted her to be creative because we love the arts,” the same-sex couple explained in a video posted to their TikTok account.
The video was later reposted to Twitter by a user who compared the men’s account of choosing an egg supplier to “picking out a dog in a pet store.”
As I’ve documented in previous articles, reproductive technologies such as supplying eggs and sperm with no strings attached are morally problematic because they sideline the natural right children have to a mother and father to accommodate the desires of adults. Processes such as in vitro fertilization and surrogacy may have started as a means to assist couples struggling with infertility but they’ve morphed into a multibillion-dollar industry that lets anyone and everyone who can afford it pay to create embryos, most of which will likely later be abandoned or discarded.
Choose Your Character
Among other issues, incentivizing the supply of gametes with money can lead to the normalization of deeming certain genetic traits and behaviors as favorable.
Sound familiar? That’s because that’s the same kind of thought that governed the Nazi party of Germany and prompted Margaret Sanger to found and operate abortion giant Planned Parenthood.
If society endorses commissioning babies that look or act a certain way, what’s stopping that same society from justifying killing off other kinds? Unfortunately, justifying abortions based on the baby’s sex, race, or assumption that the baby or mother’s “quality of life” might not be worth giving birth is still all too common.
In addition to having an ethically gray history plagued with breaches of scientific trust and method, the process of supplying sperm and eggs to a buyer requires dozens of physical and psychological screenings to determine eligibility. Those characteristics are then put on display for shoppers who are interested in creating a baby and want to pick and choose how it’s done.
Essentially anyone who wants to pay thousands of dollars for eggs and sperm to use in an IVF and possible surrogacy pregnancy can walk into a fertility clinic with a laundry list of physical features, health history, and behaviors they desire in a child and choose suppliers that they believe reflect those traits.
“Being picked from a catalogue doesn’t feel great,” one egg supplier admitted in an article for Fashion Magazine in 2020. “And you have to deal with the ‘designer baby’ dilemma.”
Designer babies are children whose features such as sex, eye color, and race are handpicked by the people that commissioned their existence. Even if the intention is to create a baby that looks like the intended parents, choosing certain physical traits in a child easily borders on eugenics.
Handpicked breeding has long been under scrutiny for multiple reasons, but that hasn’t stopped the trend of choosing a child’s sex from becoming a normalized part of the reproductive technologies scene.
Preying on the Vulnerable
Not only does monetizing gametes embolden the eugenics movement, but it also entraps young people who, as the egg supplier in Fashion Magazine put it, “wouldn’t have done this if I didn’t need the money.”
A Wired article in 2019 detailed how fertility centers seemingly target “young cash-strapped women in college” with “tailor-made” advertisements touting helping couples “complete their family.”
“It takes a special woman to consider helping someone in such a generous way. Your kindness is appreciated,” one ad from A Perfect Match, an egg supply company, stated.
What those ads don’t describe, however, is the lack of data surrounding the effects of egg supplying, the physically and mentally strenuous screening processes suppliers must undergo, and pain that can include excessive bleeding, abdominal swelling, and discomfort, plus potential weight gain, nausea, infection, and problems urinating, which young women can experience after exchanging their eggs for payment. In some cases, that pain can lead to hospitalization and, in rare cases across the globe, death.
That’s in addition to the emotional toll both sperm and egg suppliers, especially those whose brains are not yet fully developed, could feel after realizing they will share their DNA with a child they likely won’t know or raise.
The sperm and egg supplier process encourages the intentional creation and destruction of embryos, predestines babies to be separated from at least one biological parent, and can reduce the men and women who exchange their gametes for currency to statistics on a piece of paper instead of the human beings they are.