Designing Babies? Embryos from 'Ph.D. Sperm' and 'Attractive Eggs' for Sale


"The physical part of it I can handle," said Sherrie Baggett. "I mean the shots I can handle and all that kind of stuff. It's just, 'will this work now?' It's the wondering. It's lack of control."

They tried two rounds of in-vitro fertilization, costing $12,000 a round. But each round failed.

"It's kind of like, your heart's breaking," she said, her voice cracking. "You know, it's frustrating and it makes you want to scream inside. It's obsessing."

"You're supposed to grow up and be a mommy. You know?" she said. "You're supposed to have grandkids and, you're supposed to have a family."

Financial and Emotional Costs

The Baggetts tried giving up on parenthood, spending time instead with their three prized horses and building their dream home. But over time, they realized they still wanted to have kids. And Sherrie wanted to experience pregnancy.

"I think it would be kind of nice, you know, to breast feed and to bond with the baby and to do all that stuff," she said.

The couple felt paralyzed. They were still not sure if they wanted to go through another egg extraction, and Sherrie says she just couldn't pick an egg donor to fertilize with her husband's sperm. So the idea of buying a premade embryo made sense to the Baggetts, to improve their odds of carrying a baby to term and to save money.

How does the cost compare? The costs of in-vitro vary widely, but the Baggetts Ryan's service was actually cheaper. Sherrie said it was "$6,000 less using Jennalee than to even use our own [egg and sperm], because we don't have the costs of medications and taking all the eggs."

And of course that doesn't even factor in the emotional toll of risking another failure.

Not every embryo will implant, so Ryan recommends that couples buy two or more. The Baggetts are hedging their bets, thinking that while waiting on the Abraham Center of Life's list, they may try other methods, like traditional adoption. But they admit that maybe next week they'll think differently.

Customizing the Gene Pool

Adopting an embryo from Ryan's service -- rather than adopting a child -- also allows her clients, in general terms, to literally choose babies created from the most highly educated, physically appealing, pre-screened gene pool she can find.

But couples who go on the list must wait their turn before getting a chance to choose a donor.

"If you come to me, you'll go on the list of 450 people that are there," said Ryan. "So no, you won't pick through a list. What will probably happen is that when you get to the top of the list, when it's your turn, you'll probably be shown two pictures of two egg donors and you can say 'yes' or 'no.' And if you say 'no,' then you'll just sit and wait."

Ryan's business has stirred critics. Is it, as some charge, borderline eugenics? Is it merely a way for people to design a "better baby" by ordering up the genetic characteristics of a child?

Ryan is insistent in her denial.

"We don't do that," she said. "These embryos are already created. So what the family does have a choice of is whether they want them or not."

But what if a couple did want to choose their baby's physical characteristics to have a baby that looked like them?

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