If college life is draining you both emotionally and financially, maybe you should consider the philanthropic gesture of sperm or egg donation. Like many advertisements claim: “Help a couple’s dream come true. It will be emotionally and financially rewarding.” Bodily fluids, genetic codes and babies are New World commodities, and now the inherent property of your biology can translate into another form of capital. So capitalize, right?
According to a study by the American Society for Reproductive Medicine, nearly 15 percent of all couples encounter problems with infertility and 2 percent have problems with sterility. Most women either do not produce eggs, have removed their ovaries, destroyed their ovarian function through radiation therapy for cancer, or possess a genetically transmitted defective trait passed on by the female. Thanks to revolutionary reproductive technology, couples are afforded the options of in vitro fertilization, embryo donation, or sperm and egg donations.
Donated eggs or sperm from young, healthy donors has a 50 percent chance of leading to live births. Due to this statistic, many fertility clinics and agencies invest an enormous amount of energy and money into college campus advertisement.
Sperm donors are offered the appetizing sum of around $50 and pleasurable magazine viewing per donation. Egg donors on the other hand are offered anywhere from $75 per hospital visit, $900 a month and $5,000 to $10,000 total for services rendered. Students are highly susceptible to the propaganda of easy-access money, especially when under the belief that selling their genetic sequence falls under the category of charity.
Slightly less convenient than these numbers is the reality that it takes up to three months of positive blood tests and frozen samples to even qualify as a donor. Once qualified, often a long-term commitment of one or two years is required.
Other screening procedures include an initial consultation, counseling, a complete physical examination, a review of medical history and a documentation of a family’s medical history. Oocyte (egg) donors in particular are subjected to rigorous demands of their time and body. They spend upwards of 56 hours in the clinical setting for procedures related to the process in addition to taking daily hormonal injections.
If egg or sperm donation is as effortless as giving to charity, why are there so many psychological and physiological impediments getting in the way? Many do not consider that it is highly unnatural to participate in the act of unencumbered parenting, where in fact there’s no participation in a child’s life whatsoever. Further separating the donors, any identification or tracking of the donor is legally prohibited and can even result in fines or imprisonment.
Donna Ridder, lab supervisor for a sperm bank in Ohio, insists “we don’t pay donors for samples, but for their time.”
The American Society for Assisted Reproduction offers guidelines mandating that donors be “compensated for … expenses associated with their participation, their inconvenience and time, and to some degree, for the risk and discomfort undertaken.” Although medical donations are not allowed to be paid, each “volunteer” receives compensation per sample under the guise of this technicality.
In actuality, donors are not simply being compensated for their input of time; there is a clear marketing tool in selling a child, and a specific child at that. Some couples spend up to $30,000 on the fertility process, often to find eggs or sperm with a certain ethnicity, eye color, SAT score, athletic aptitude, personality trait and so on.
Universities, particularly Ivy League schools, are sought after because their populations are teeming with viable candidates: financially dependent young adults and a genetic master race. Web sites like Options National Fertility Registry’s, not coincidentally the leading advertiser in Ivy League publications, serve as liaisons between donors and recipients that provide pictures and background information.
There are even thorough search engines with parameters such as ethnicity, hair color, eye color, ability and other traits – the ultimate amazon.com experience of baby making. Artificial reproduction, due to the high costs and commonly desired results, has begun to resemble something of eugenics.
The convenience for both donors and recipients has led to a casualization of creating life that is truly inhumane. Unfortunately the most active participants, college students, fail to weigh the humanity behind the “emotional and financial reward.” A common response: If all bodily fluids were worth this much money, I’d sell them all.
Erin Cusack can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.