17 April 2007

Internet Sperm, Internet Eggs, Internet Sperm and Eggs?

For many years, a woman wanting to be a parent could buy human sperm on the internet. More recently, human eggs were offered for sale on the internet. But now, eager parents-to-be can mix and match sperm and eggs, and order designer embryos. With viable embryos, even women past menopause can receive hormone treatments, and get their uteri in shape for another pregnancy.

For now, though, the biggest market is for sperm. Single mothers and lesbian mothers are particularly interested in buying the highest quality of sperm for their progeny.
After her divorce, Melissa went looking for a guy who could be a good father to the children she always hoped for. When pickings proved slim, she started searching instead for the perfect donor. "I was 39," says Melissa, who chose not to reveal her last name. "I was running out of time."

His codename was "Finn," and for $1,250 payable to the Scandinavian Cryobank office in New York City, Melissa walked away with 5 vials of his sperm. After shelling out another $15,000 for hormone drugs, doctor consultations and her in vitro fertilization process, Melissa is now the proud mother of 13-month-old twin boys.

Melissa's twins are just two of the estimated 30,000 babies born each year from donated sperm. Melissa herself is among the growing ranks of single moms and lesbian couples that now make up around half of the market for gamete donation, which, until the 1980s and 1990s, had been available almost exclusively to married, heterosexual couples.

Throw in an array of new reproductive technologies like in vitro fertilization and the advent of the Internet, where soon-to-be moms can go "shopping" for donors, and you get a whole new kind of baby boom. Today, the U.S. fertility industry is worth some $3.3 billion.

Until women learn to make their own sperm, they will need to buy it or otherwise convince a male to hand over the goods. But successful women can afford to buy the best, and with carefully screened sperm, there are no strings attached. Single and divorced males who wish to have children must seek out surrogate mothers--which is often a very chancy proposition. Normal contract law does not always carry the day, when a change of heart occurs.

Of course, when artificial wombs are perfected, the whole reproductive game will change. Until then, single and gay women will have the advantage over single and gay men, in procreation.

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