From Melinda Henneberger in the Washington Post:
“Exceptional egg donor needed,” said a recent ad in the Harvard Crimson. The couple looking for that donor, it said, is working with a “prestigious Los Angeles IVF clinic,” in search of a “100% Korean woman” with an excellent education, “outstanding” test scores, “extremely healthy family history,” plus an “altruistic nature,” and a “slim build.” The Nobel Prize in Physics is only optional, I guess, since the ideal candidate sought in such notices must also be under 28.
It’s eugenics on steroids, a friend observed, though actually, it’s eugenics on Lupron and other hormones. Today, the word “eugenics” rightly summons Hitler, and in this country, forced sterilizations. It also calls to mind what Ruth Bader Ginsburg referred to several years ago as the expectation, at the time Roe v. Wade became law, that abortion would curb “growth in populations that we don’t want to have too many of.”
But at the turn of the last century, the idea of keeping “mental defectives” — and often, one qualified for this designation simply by being black and/or poor — out of the gene pool was as widely accepted as the rationalization for our march into Iraq was a decade ago. “More children from the fit, less from the unfit,” said the early feminist Margaret Sanger. “That is the chief issue of birth control.”
In “The Case against Perfection: Ethics in the Age of Genetic Engineering,” the moral philosopher Michael J. Sandel wrote that champions of “the new eugenics” see it as not only ethically superior to the bad old days of forced sterilizations — this time, it’s optional — but perhaps even morally required.
I certainly have friends who see it that way: Wouldn’t we be negligent, one of them reasoned, not to lay the best possible foundation for the health, intelligence, and blue-eyed enjoyment of our children? Sandel says no: “To appreciate children as gifts,” he writes, “is to accept them as they come, not as objects of our design, or products of our will, or instruments of our ambition.”
The ads I find so creepy have run for years in student newspapers at the country’s top schools. “We are an Ivy League couple,” said another recent one in the Crimson, “seeking the help of a special woman who is a healthy, Caucasian, with highest percentile ACT/SAT scores” — very democratic, that ACT option — “tall, slender, dark to light blonde hair, blue eyes, and under the age of 28.” But isn’t the barely unstated subtext that anything other than that would be a crashing disappointment?
For the ‘donor,’ the going rate seems to be 20k, plus “all expenses paid,” and all women have to do to cash in is get so pumped up on hormones that they produce not one egg but many, and are chemically thrown into reproductive sync with the surrogate.