Making (exotic) babies: human life, made to order
March 21, 2016 (BreakPoint) -- Americans have a thing for the exotic, no matter how costly it may prove to other people. For instance, the Florida Everglades are home to, among other species, Nile crocodiles, green anacondas, and most famously, tens of thousands of Burmese pythons.
As words like “Nile” and “Burmese” suggest, none of these species are native to Florida or even to this continent. Their presence in the Everglades, and the damage they’re causing to that fragile ecosystem is the result of people indulging their desire for exotic pets and then dumping them when they become inconvenient.
As bad as this sort of self-indulgence is when we’re talking reptiles, it’s infinitely worse when the exotic commodity is people.
A recent listing on Craigslist ran this header “50K+ Compensation: East Indian/South Asian looking Egg Donor Needed.” The listing included a photo of the kind of egg donor the solicitor had in mind: a beautiful woman of Asian origin, the kind that tend to do well in Miss World and Miss Universe pageants.
The people behind the listing, who describe themselves as “a well respected [sic] boutique egg donation and surrogacy agency in Southern California,” didn’t stop at the merely superficial.
In addition to having an “attractive” and “exotic” “East Indian look,” the egg donor must be intelligent as well, with at least a 3.5 GPA and a 2150 on the SAT, which would place her in the 97th percentile.
In other words, this woman, this donor, must be statistically-improbable. In exchange for being this improbable, the egg donor would not only be well-compensated, she would “change someone's life in a way that is truly the world's greatest gift.”
Funny, I thought gifts were free.
This solicitation isn’t unprecedented. In 1999, ads in the newspapers of elite universities offered $50,000 to “athletic” women who were at least 5’10” and had scored 1400 or better on their SATs. Little wonder that, since then, stories about Ivy League grads being offered big money for their eggs has been a recurring item in the news.
None of which changes the fact that we’re talking about not only buying life, but life made-to-order, or at least as close as we can for now.
Our culture has already decided the principle moral question of whether it is okay to treat our children as a customized consumer experience. And as I recently said on BreakPoint, advances in genetics, like CRISPR gene editing, offer the promise of allowing us to custom order children straight from the factory, as it were, rather than limit ourselves to what’s available at the dealership.
The desire for customizable “exotic-looking” children is the product of the same worldview that prompts people to buy exotic pets: As Westerners we think of ourselves primarily as consumers, with inherent rights to any and all goods in a global marketplace.
This consumer view of the world extends beyond the shopping mall and Amazon.com. It now includes the conceiving, birthing, choosing, and raising of children. Unable, too busy, or too stressed to spend nine months being pregnant? Hire a surrogate, preferably an “East Asian/South Asian” one who’ll do the job for less.
Want a hedge to protect your parental investment? Buy eggs from attractive, accomplished women.
This is where our obsession with restriction-free choice and personal autonomy leads. Babies become products, things to be desired, acquired, and even discarded when they do not meet our tastes and desires.
A culture like this makes a swamp full of pythons and crocodiles look reassuring by comparison.
To better understand this evil, I invite you to check out the powerful documentary from the Center for Bioethics and Culture entitled “Eggsploitation.”
Reprinted with permission from Break Point.