If you want to adopt a child in the United States, you’ll face an array of bureaucratic roadblocks and invasive interrogations. Adoption agencies will assess your finances, your relationships, and your fitness as a potential guardian. The interests of the child, not the desires of the would-be parent, will be treated as paramount throughout.
If you want to procure sperm or eggs, the process is completely different. You can shop for gametes the way you’d go shopping for a house or a car — buying ova from an Ivy League undergraduate, or sperm from a 6-foot-8, athletic, blue-eyed Dane. The person selling you the right to bear and rear their biological offspring can do so anonymously, with no future strings attached at all.
The result is a freewheeling fertility marketplace whose impact on American life keeps increasing. Sperm donations generate between 30,000 and 60,000 conceptions every year, and roughly 6,000 children are conceived through egg donation annually as well. About a million American adults, if not more, are the biological children of sperm donors.
Not surprisingly, these Americans have a complicated relationship to the reproductive marketplace that made their existence possible.