Embryos For Sale


I feel superstitious about doing it, but I guess it’s time to tell you folks that David and I will welcome a new member of our family in June, assuming all continues to go well — knock wood, cross myself. And now on to a post about reproduction! (Do I get free rein to talk about this and not foreign policy now that I have a hormonal excuse for not being interested in war?)

So there was this article on Slate that I read today about the Abraham Center of Life, the first human embryo bank in the world. As are most innovations that remove elements of chance from an individual’s reproductive life (birth control, IVF, genetic embryo screening, and the like), this one is already controversial. There is of course the specter of human life being bought and sold for profit … it’s interesting that in a capitalist society people have as much of a problem with this as they seem to, since it seems an only logical outcome to me (but then I’m not a big fan of capitalism).

But despite knee-jerk reservations, I have to say that some of the points covered in the Slate article made sense to me. When I was considering what I would do if I could not have biological children, I developed a real aversion to the adoption process for precisely the reasons Ryan discusses. Why should I have to prove myself to someone just because of bad biological luck? The risks of the birth mother backing out and of not knowing what kind of prenatal care the baby was getting were also distasteful to me. And like most other people, I’m selfish — I wanted an infant who looked somewhat like me, not an older child who had already been mistreated and developed emotional and behavioral problems. (If anyone’s going to f**k up my child, it will be me, thank you very much). I know I’m wrong to feel this way and it probably speaks volumes about my lack of character, but there it is.

The embryo donation model using donors that don’t know each other makes sense — neither has a sense of ownership of the embryos, which is the main problem with the Snowflake model of donation of leftover embryos from IVF procedures. It sounds like a great idea in theory, but in truth, most people can’t bear to go through with it. As long as neither of the donors are being coerced, I’m not sure I see many problems with it within the context of a capitalist system.

I’m tired and not thinking completely straight right now, so I’m sure others can identify problems with this business that I have overlooked. FWIW, I don’t think that the “what if two biologically related children later unknowingly marry each other?” concern is that big a deal given the statistically small likelihood of this occurring (and in any case this possibility has been around as long as sperm donation has existed). More interesting are the educational and racial/ethnic characteristics of the donors. Do we buy the Center’s explanation that these simply reflect the demand rather than anything more sinister on their part? And in a more general way, why are we so squeamish about the use of technology to help bring children into the world? It seems to me that children who are wanted this much are more likely to be well cared for and become productive citizens than children conceived by people whose only qualification is fertility. Why should those people get a free pass just because their reproductive systems work when that says nothing about their willingness or ability to take on the responsibilities of parenting?


5 Responses to “Embryos For Sale”

  1. DeJon Redd Says:

    Congratulations to you and David!! I pray a joyous birth awaits you.
    Its late so I’ll have to digest the rest of the post later.

  2. Al Sturgeon Says:

    Congratulations from me, too!

    I’ve been discussing reproduction recently, mostly the lack of, given a certain “procedure” I underwent a couple of weeks ago. I should have posted about that here, since it was NOT FUN, and Terry would have had a field day making fun of it. 🙂

    Anyway, I’m afraid I’m not much more literate in discussing the field of reproduction than I am the state of the Middle East. In fact, after my procedure, I don’t even know if I’m qualifed to discuss reproduction?! 🙂

    I’ve never even had to consider the “have to adopt” scenario personally, so I have a hard time thinking those issues through. I have discussed often the HUGE NEED for adoptions in America, not of the cute little white baby type, but of the messed-up later-on kids to which you refer. I don’t excuse myself here, but the fact that there are unwanted living, breathing kids in America is an awful shame.

    But I probably digress from the point of the post. Sorry.

  3. juvenal_urbino Says:

    “what if two biologically related children later unknowingly marry each other?”

    The real moral dilemma is: what if two biologically related children marry each other and video their wedding night and sell it to somebody to put on the internet?

    In our current bizzaro world of morality politics, that’s the hypothetical that will really cause a stir; not the morality of putting people’s genetic health at risk.

  4. Michael Lasley Says:

    Belated congratulations, Sandi.

    The article is interesting, and I don’t have an answer to your question about squeemishness concerning technology and reproduction. (Other than the one most people give about everything that isn’t “normal” — you know, the whole “it’s just not NATURAL!” thing) I DO think it’s good to question the Center’s intentions (you asked if they might have some sinister intentions). Especially at the prices they are asking. Rich people can more or less choose what their child’s genetic makeup will be. Poor people are stuck with traditional means of reproduction.

    But the drug abuse problem during pregnancy is a HUGE deal. Knowing a bit about this through observation, it is impossible to understate how much that affects a child. Which can really affect the family in horrible ways.

    So I can understand why people are attracted to the services of Ryan.

  5. ivf2women Says:

    I’m doing an open embryo donation. Secret embryo donation is a bad idea for the reasons you suggested. I’ve been blogging about my thoughts on embryo donation: http://embryodonation.blogspot.com

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