Thursday, March 20, 2008

Babies for sale

In an age of made-to-order accessories, the business of procreating has become a lifestyle trend for the rich and famous, a painful credit card debt for infertile middle class families, a trophy of gay rights, a means of income/drinking money for college kids, and an immeasurable amount of grief for those so carelessly created to satisfy these covetous wishes. 

The production of human lives to buy and sell has become a multi-billion dollar industry.  Advertisements are often found pinned on university bulletin boards as a way to make money (and sometimes even ‘help’ people have a child).  The going rate for an egg donor is $8-20,000/cycle…more depending on the girl’s looks (tall, blonde, athletic, of course!), IQ, tests scores, education level, prestige of university – ivy league is a must, and Harvard eggs pay better than Princeton eggs – as well as ethnicity, musical or artistic talent, and previous successful egg donations resulting in pregnancies.  Sperm donors can make on average close to $16,000/year just to jack off in a cup, or as one recruitment ad put - "get paid to do what you already do" (UCLA study).   The most sought after sperm donors are over six feet tall, blonde hair, blue eyes, high IQ, and preferably majoring in the sciences or medicine.

This certainly rings a bell for me…it’s called eugenics!!

And these startling numbers are only the tip of the iceberg for the massive amounts of money trading hands.  Would-be parents are putting second mortgages on their homes to continue to pay for high-cost infertility treatments, which are typically not covered by insurances.  Now, if they actually get a pregnancy and are flat broke, how’s that to bring a child purposefully into that financial situation?!  To top it off, many doctors still implant multiple embryos during IVF treatments, thus significantly increasing the chances of twins, triplets, or larger multiples!!  This is not only a HUGE continuing financial burden on the parents, but the risks of pre-mature birth, developmental delays, and congenital defects also increase dramatically.  Are these fertility doctors going to help these parents pay for hundreds of thousands of dollars of medical costs for quadruplets born at 25 weeks and all need multiple surgeries and constant care???  Hell no!!!  These poor parents, after spending countless dollars and years to get pregnant, have to watch their children suffering because of some doctor’s negligence.

Even Hollywood is catching on, as many aging actresses realized too late that their careers may have plummeted their chances of conceiving a child.  Lets get this straight...44 year old women typically can't conceive their FIRST child naturally at this age - maybe their 4th or 5th, but not their first.  For anyone who actually believes that a certain number of A-listers (I won't mention any specific names, but I'm sure you can guess several I'm referring to) in their 40's popping out babies are really theirs, I think you need a reality check.

Has anyone in the infertility industry asked what those of us conceived through such artificial means thought about being the product of a financial transaction?  Yeah, I didn’t think so…

Growing up I saw myself as a ‘freak of nature’ due to the method of my conception.  My mom paid her doctor for treatments and for the ordering of the sperm from Xytex.  I was conceived in a doctor’s office in a sterile environment from a frozen sample of donor 2035’s semen, which he was paid quite handsomely to provide behind closed doors with a playboy magazine or some trashy porn movie. 

It's a sad day when there actually IS a price-tag on a human life...

Do I ever question why he donated?  Most definitely.  He was student, most likely pressed for cash and probably figured who wouldn’t donate and get paid to jerk off!!  Do I wish he did it to be altruistic?  Honestly, no.  I mean, it would be nice to think that at least he was knowledgeable that he was producing his own biological children.  But at the same time how am I to respect someone who sold their child, regardless of their intentions. 

To me, it seems worse for someone to donate altruistically as they fully acknowledge they are potentially producing a human being, and thus selling his own biological children.  On the other hand, a man who was uninformed, as this guy shows.  “One sperm donor was dumbstruck when he was informed that one of his contributions had resulted in conception. ‘I hadn't really thought about the fact there were going to be pregnancies,’ he said” (UCLA study looks at sperm donation, 2007).  Obviously had no idea his donations might result in a pregnancy.  This lack of information is the cornerstone of the sperm bank’s business practice.  By disguising sperm donation as simply a way to make money, it takes away from the reality of producing a child.

Sperm and egg donors are even treated differently by the infertility industry, due in part to the “newly defined roles of parenthood” – the nurturing mother and the distant father. 

"Staff at egg agencies constantly thank women and encourage them to think about what a wonderful difference they're making in the lives of recipients," Almeling said. "The sperm bank staff is appreciative, but men aren't told how amazing they are and what a great gift they're giving. They're treated more like reproductive service workers” (UCLA study).

The industry also avoids any would-be donors who seem too interested in what will happen to their donations, if children result will they be able to meet them, etc.  Heaven only knows you have to keep the source of supply the in dark as to what they are actually doing - selling their biological children - in order to continue business as usual!  Egg donors especially are turned away is they ask too many questions or seem uneasy about the process.  Men it seems are less likely to jump to such conclusions immediately, and thus this is typically not an issue.

How can anyone believe an industry which defines itself in such medieval stereotypes, and assumes that since fathers are not that important in raising a child it’s okay to deny a child the right to know and be raised by his or her father?  I think society needs to take a long and hard look at what these methods of technology are really doing, and listen to those of us who are fighting back.  Really listen and hear our pleas, our stories, our pain – and see that we deserve to be treated with dignity as much as the next naturally conceived person.

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