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Jewish World Review Oct. 29, 1999 /19 Mar-Cheshvan, 5760

Linda Chavez

Linda Chavez
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Bab(e) -- ies

http://www.jewishworldreview.com -- WANT A BABY? Worried it might have your receding chin or your spouse's big nose, or worse, both? Don't be. Beautiful babies are for sale on the Internet, starting this week. Well, actually what's for sale isn't quite a baby yet -- it's just the stuff babies are made of. You know, eggs and sperm, but not just any old eggs and sperm. These genetic products come from supermodels, and they're available online at a web site -- ronsangels.com -- launched this week by fashion photographer Ron Harris.

Bids at the Internet auction site start at from $15,000 to $150,000. You'll still need to find some woman willing to have the baby-making material implanted in her after you've made your purchase. And for the time being, Harris only has supermodel eggs for sale, no sperm (his site promises sperm from male models will soon be available). But hey, why not check out one of the sperm banks specializing in genius donors? Maybe you'll end up with a baby that looks like Cindy Crawford and thinks like Bill Gates.

Then again, you might end up with one that looks like Bill Gates and thinks like Cindy Crawford -- no tragedy, certainly, but not quite what you paid a quarter or half a million dollars for. I don't suppose you can turn the little fella in for another model. Caveat emptor: Buyer beware, this purchase requires lifetime responsibility.

Ron Harris is only the most recent huckster -- and one of the more crass -- to tap into the fertility market. Dozens of fertility clinics and thousands of women offer "donated" eggs to infertile couples, usually for a fee that can range from a few thousand dollars to $50,000 or more. The procedure, which usually involves risky hormone treatments given to both egg donors and recipients, has become increasingly popular with couples desperate to have a child. But many couples are not content with just any child. If they can't have their own child -- or even if they can -- why not have the best child, the prettiest, smartest, tallest, most athletic, musically gifted, graceful child imaginable? A designer child, put together from the very best components available.

Babies turned into commodities. Why stop at auctioning off only eggs and sperm? Why not make designer embryos available, too? And why be forced to buy a pig in a poke? Why not wait until delivery before making purchase? Or later yet. If it's intelligence you're after, maybe it would be best to wait until her IQ can be tested. If it's looks you're interested in, maybe you should defer final purchase until you make sure his face actually catches up to his ear size, or that her baby fat melts away during puberty. Perhaps some creative entrepreneur will create a lease/option-to-buy plan whereby prospective parents can try the child out while they're deciding whether to make final purchase.

Unthinkable? Don't bet on it. Who would have imagined even a few years ago that fashion models would be hawking their ova to the highest bidder on computer screens throughout the world?

At its most primitive biological level, parenting a child has always been motivated by the desire to pass on one's genes -- and thereby, cheat death.

But what motivates this new phenomenon is cruder still. There is not even the hint of immortality or any purpose greater than material possession. No longer viewed as a gift of life from G-d, entrusted to his or human parents for a brief period only, a child becomes a thing. Valuable as it is beautiful or smart, healthy or strong. Implicitly, less valuable as it is plain or dull, sick or weak.

We have created not a Brave New World, but a vulgar marketplace, where human attributes come with a price tag.


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©1999, Creators Syndicate