In Pursuit of the Perfect Sperm

Commentary by Susan Brinkmann, OCDS
Staff Writer

The quest for the perfect baby has reached new lows. Instead of falling in love with the right man, getting married and accepting the children God sends, women in pursuit of the perfect child are actually flying to foreign countries in order to be inseminated with the sperm of men who have the traits they desire in their children.

A recent article appearing in The Washington Post tells the story of 43 year old Julie Peterson, a North Carolina woman of Scandinavian heritage who was artificially inseminated with sperm from a Danish man who had similar characteristics. He was a tall, blonde, blue-eyed engineer, she was told.

Peterson soon gave birth to a beautiful “Viking baby” and decided she wanted to create a  sibling for the child with the same sperm.

However, when she returned to the clinic, she was told that the U.S. government had placed restrictions on the importation of foreign sperm because of the threat of mad cow disease. Therefore, when her Scandinavian donor’s sperm ran out, it could not be replaced. 

“I just cried,” said Peterson. “I was in complete shock. I hadn’t thought about anything but having another baby with this donor. It was just so surprising and bewildering.”

But she refused to give up and has flown twice to Copenhagen to be inseminated with sperm from the same donor. She did not get pregnant on the first try, and a pregnancy from the second one ended in miscarriage. Peterson, a chiropractor, thinks this week’s attempt will be her last.

“It’s a huge commitment both financially and with my time. I have to close my practice and go to a totally different country. But I’m committed to having my daughter have the same father if I can. But I don’t know how many times I can do this if a baby doesn’t come with this one.”

As outrageous as this story sounds, Peterson is not the only one who has tossed aside the sacred meaning of human procreation in frantic pursuit of a made-to-order baby. Single women who desire children without an involved father apparently clamor for Nordic sperm because donors tend to have all the most desirable traits – blue eyes, blonde hair, tall height and advanced degrees.

According to one purveyor of this unusual commodity, supplies were flying off the shelves before government restrictions went into effect.

“The demand was huge,” said Peter Bower of Nordic Cryobank of Copenhagen. “In addition to being tall and well educated, their motivations for donation are quite sincere – they want to help childless couples. They tended to sell out very fast.”

But supplies have been dwindling since U.S. restrictions went into effect in 2005, causing a small but desperate number of would-be parents to go to outrageous lengths in pursuit of their preferred sperm. Some are flying to Canada or Mexico, or haggling with other American women who have leftover vials from desirable donors.

“I think it’s outrageous,” said Laura, a Los Angeles lawyer who asked that her last name be withheld to protect her privacy. She decided against paying a New York woman more than $2,000 for a few vials from a donor she nicknamed “Sven,” whom she used a few years ago to conceive a son. A vial usually costs less than $500. “I’d love to give him a full sibling. But I just couldn’t do it. It’s so unfortunate.”

In a commentary for LifeSiteNews, Kathleen Gilbert wonders about the dear children being created by these strange unions and how it might feel to grow up knowing they were shopped for rather than created in the loving embrace of a man and his wife. Even worse may be the fate of the children whose mothers had to settle for less-than-desirable sperm. What might this child be told about his or her origins? 

“Honey, when mommy went shopping at the Cryobank to buy a father for you, she couldn’t get the best sperm because the government wouldn’t let her, and so she settled for something less. And that’s why you’re just not as handsome or smart or fast as your brother.” 
“Let’s be honest,” Gilbert writes. “Favorite sperm or no favorite sperm, nobody wants to grow up hearing that they were shopped for and bought, robbed of a right all persons have – to be conceived in a relationship of love and tangible commitment.” 

As Donum Vitae, a document published by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) reminds Catholics and all men of good will, a human person is not, after all, the sum of his genetic characteristics, Gilbert writes. A child has the unquantifiable “personal dignity” that he shares with his parents: and his parents give life as co-creators with God, both physically and spiritually.
As we read in Donum Vitae: “It is through the secure and recognized relationship to his own parents that the child can discover his own identity and achieve his own proper human development.” 

This is a security, and an identity, that increasing numbers of children around the world will never have because their parents insist upon relying upon technology rather than God to produce the “perfect” child.

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