Eggs, Surrogates And Product Lines

December 15, 2008 09:00 AM

With only 10 days left until Christmas and a waning economy threatening retailers, it is remarkable to read about a business that is increasing its effectiveness and bringing in the bucks. I am not referring to the latest craze in footwear, but rather a far more intricate market … baby production.

Interesting? Well, perhaps it is better to describe this increase in sales as troublesome at nearly every level. Recently the Wall Street Journal reported that some fertility clinics are experiencing a surge in the number of women making applications for the possible sale of their eggs, or to serve as surrogates for women who want a child but do not want to or cannot carry their baby themselves. And as they are quick to point out, the actual donation of a female egg carries risks of its own, even to donors who stand to reap the reward of $3,000 or more if they qualify. The report states,

Once selected, an egg donor undergoes several weeks of daily hormone injections to synchronize her menstrual cycle with the recipient's, stimulate her ovarian follicles and then ripen the eggs. Donors are monitored every few days with blood tests and ultrasound scans. The eggs are harvested using a needle through the vaginal wall, with the donor under general anesthesia.

Many applicants turn back once they learn what's involved. "The other thing is the lifestyle changes required: no drinking, no smoking, NO SEX ... that's the one that gets them the most," e-mails Darlene Pinkerton, executive director of A Perfect Match in San Diego, which offers up to $50,000 for egg donors with high SATs. She says she's seen a doubling of inquiries recently. The American Society for Reproductive Medicine considers compensation above $10,000 to be inappropriate; Ms. Pinkerton argues that the offer brings in donors who might not otherwise be interested.

There are some risks to the donor – including possible bleeding and infection at the injection sites, and, in rare cases, ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome, in which several dozen eggs ripen at once and the ovaries become dangerously swollen. But careful monitoring can avoid that. "If egg donation is done in an experienced clinic, that complication rate is very, very low and the success rates are quite high," says Zev Rosenwaks, director of reproductive medicine at New York-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center, which performs about 200 egg transfers per year, more than half of which result in live births.

In the event you are curious about why a company like A Perfect Match would be concerned about eggs from women with high SAT scores, you clearly have not been keeping up with designer baby  marketing strategies. These strategies focus on the same thing: ordering a baby that meets your specifications with the option of killing him or her if there appears to be a problem at some point during the gestation of that baby.

When the term "designer baby" made it into the Oxford English Dictionary, it was only a matter of time before what once appeared to be pure science fiction would become a practice the upper crust would find appealing.

If you are still incredulous, this excerpt from A Perfect Match's web site will give you a small glimpse of how designer baby marketers attempt to cater to prospective parents who know exactly what they want:

While many people do not understand or agree that personality or intelligence matters when it comes to choosing a donor, there are many studies that show both personality and intelligence are very heritable traits. A Perfect Match is committed to allowing our intended parents the right to choose their own egg donor based on the specific characteristics each individual family deems most important to them. Not every intended parent or infertile family values the same thing in an egg donor, and A Perfect Match believes there is no one who can make a better decision about the right donor for a family than the family itself. For some Intended families, ethnicity will be the most important item, but for others, it will be hair and eye color. For some it will be the intelligence of a donor demonstrated through SAT scores, ACT scores, MCAT or LSAT scores.

By now, you have probably gotten the picture about as well as anyone can who still believes that God is the author of life and that children are a gift rather than a commodity to be examined, tweaked, observed and perhaps discarded for one reason or another. Picking a child as one might pick a new car simply does not compute for the vast majority of Americans  … at least not yet.

But there are no guarantees about what the future may hold nor is there any real hope that the baby manufacturing business will come to its senses and cease operations in the near future. This is why Focus on the Family Action's senior bioethics analyst, Carrie Gordon Earll, commented,  "Even if the risks are minimal, this type of idea enters into creating life outside of the marital union, and that’s something Focus on the Family does not support." And as Wall Street Journal writer Thomas Frank pointed out in a recent editorial,

When money is exchanged for pregnancy, some believe, surrogacy comes close to organ-selling, or even baby-selling. It threatens to commodify not only babies, but women as well, putting their biological functions up for sale like so many Jimmy Choos. If surrogacy ever becomes a widely practiced market transaction, it will probably make pregnancy into just another dirty task for the working class, with wages driven down and wealthy couples hiring the work out because it's such a hassle to be pregnant.

Sound surreal? Believe me, it is not; it is a practice that is growing in popularity and is, even in a bleak economy, destined for greater success in the future, according to many. The bottom line, no pun intended, with companies that profit from the marketing of baby making, is that pregnancy is simply a mechanical function of the human body. It can be planned and executed, along with the proper quality control standards in place at every step of the process.

Perhaps the suffering automotive industry should take a cue from these folks.

On the other hand, it may be high time for moral sanity to make a comeback, which is in my view, why the Vatican's timely new document, Dignitas Personae, is so urgently needed. In section 16, we find the correct explanation regarding this crazed science that equates human beings with product lines:

In reality, it seems that some researchers, lacking any ethical point of reference and aware of the possibilities inherent in technological progress, surrender to the logic of purely subjective desires and to economic pressures which are so strong in this area.

And as we all know, where money is involved and huge sums are to be made, economic principles frequently give way to greed and corruption. Such is the case with the baby making industry.

Such reproductive technologies embody the philosophy that is the cornerstone of the culture of death: Human beings are mere machines and the "production" of their offspring is just one of the many mechanical functions performed by the machinery.

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