Friday, September 21, 2007

Blonde Like Me

[posted by Callimachus]

There's something creepy about this.

For American parents looking for donor sperm to produce blond, blue-eyed Scandinavian babies, the search just got a little trickier.

A ban on sperm from all European countries with exposure to mad cow disease means U.S. sperm banks are running low.

The May 2005 decision by the Food and Drug Administration effectively blocked donors from Denmark to the United Kingdom. And while some sperm banks have had enough frozen stocks to cope with demand, they are now facing shortages.

"We still have a little bit left, but not much," said Claus Rodgaard, manager of Cryos International, a Danish-based sperm bank with an office in New York.

Leaving aside the silly scientific bureaucracy of the ban (mad cow cases have turned up in Canada, too, but you can still import any sort of bodily fluid you please from there), the story incidentally reveals what is perhaps a natural human drift toward eugenics, accelerated by technology.

"We're not here to promote people to have blond, blue-eyed babies, but if those are the kinds of characteristics you're looking for, then Danish sperm is good for that," Rodgaard said. "That's all we have in Denmark."

It makes me think of this piece, one of the few I've seen recently to try to frame an ethical debate on this subject (though addressing principally pro-choice groups):

Like it or not, pro-choice groups, then, will be compelled to take a stand. They will have to distinguish their concept of reproductive rights from that advanced by neo-eugenicists and to decide whether and how to endorse regulation of reproductive technologies without jeopardizing already tenuous rights. But along with these challenges come opportunities. By incorporating concerns about the abuse of reproductive technologies into a pro-choice platform, the movement can shift away from an individual-liberties paradigm toward a social justice orientation; move away from a single-issue focus on abortion toward a more comprehensive agenda; and form coalitions with other segments of the left.

Not that I think that's a good tactic, but at least someone's trying to think about it.