The college donor..one who donates money to the school, right?
In the Stanford Daily‘s classifieds section, between an ad for a 5-speed Raleigh bike (excellent condition, $350) and ’98 Camry (runs well, $4500), a “Nice Family” is looking for a Stanford sperm donor (smart, attractive, nice eyes? email firstname.lastname@example.org). Sperm and egg donor recruitment ads have been run frequently over the years in the Daily; families are looking for different profiles–Jewish? Blonde? High SAT scores? Asian? Pre-med? Good GPA?–and are willing to pay varying amounts to willing donors ($10,000 to $25,000 is common for egg donations). A study by Stanford grad Amber Johnson “showed that some recruitment agencies and clinics, especially those offering high payment for eggs, may not adequately protect the health and safety of donors.” To begin to fill this gap, she provides information about the risks and rewards of egg donation in particular at her website, The Egg Donor Information Project.
Published yesterday, a third article in the *New York Times’ *series “21st Century Babies” by Stephanie Saul (“Building a Baby, With Few Ground Rules”) provides a look into the difficult legal dilemmas of surrogacy. Egg and sperm donors–sometimes college students–can find themselves at the center, or in the background, of complicated issues of custody. Saul writes of the Kehoe-Baker case, in which a Michigan mother of four, Laschelle Baker, carried twins for Amy Kehoe. Ms. Baker has since reclaimed custody for the twins after learning that Ms. Kehoe suffers from paranoid schizophrenia–a condition that Ms. Baker was not informed about before she was impregnated (see: Amber Johnson’s call for more protection and information for donors). The babies that Ms. Baker carried were made possible by the donation of eggs by a college student at the University of Michigan.
Working mostly over the Internet, Ms. Kehoe handpicked the egg donor, a pre-med student at the University of Michigan. From the Web site of California Cryobank, she chose the anonymous sperm donor, an athletic man with a 4.0 high school grade-point average.
Gestational surrogacy is rife with issues–over-attachment by the surrogate mother, poor vetting of potential parents, undisclosed information–but it can also be a wonderful thing (babies are beautiful!) and an amazing prospect for couples that cannot otherwise conceive.
I am curious if the ads in the *Daily *are answered, and with what frequency. The monetary compensation is large, especially in the eyes of a college student. But this is not an issue to be taken lightly, to say the least. As Saul’s article shows, these are lives being created here. How would a donor feel to find out that her egg or his sperm went to a surrogate who carried twins for Stephen Melinger, who has been since been charged with child neglect ?
Other questions—how has the internet revolutionized child-bearing practices? Those who answer the Stanford Daily ad are most likely not near the forefront of those donating–there are hundreds of donor and surrogate registries online that potential parents use. What is the legal future of surrogacy? How will collegiate donors be affected? Is surrogacy a type of Gattaca-type picking and choosing of characteristics of one’s child, or is this simply another part of coupling? Do two people who make a child naturally pick each other for one another’s characteristics as much as couples or individuals who are picking donors do? Will surrogacy become a trend for the elite and celebrities? Who is “good enough” to be the biological parent of Sarah Jessica Parker’s babies? Ricky Martin’s?