Julie Peterson is a 43-year-old successful career woman, a member of the high-IQ society MENSA, a chiropractor, a former radio show host, and a former Playboy Playmate. She had her first child, whom she calls "a beautiful Viking baby," two years ago by buying the sperm of "a tall, blond, blue-eyed Danish engineer" from California Cryobank, the world's largest sperm business. Now desiring not just a second child but one who will be a full genetic sibling to her daughter, she's despondent that the sperm retailer is unable to supply a sample from the same provider.
The cause of her current predicament, apart from her specific reproductive desires, is that the US Food and Drug Administration recently restricted imports of European biological materials in order to prevent the spread of the untreatable and fatal Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, the human form of "mad cow disease." Peterson said, "I hadn't thought about anything but having another baby with this donor. It was just so surprising and bewildering."
But how reasonable are Peterson's expectations and disappointments, featured on the front page of the Washington Post?
The fact is that the unavailability of sperm from the sire of Peterson's daughter could have equally resulted from the Cryobank depleting its supply and being unable to obtain more deposits due to the provider's unavailability, change of priorities, illness, etc. And Peterson could have planned ahead and purchased additional sperm when first getting pregnant two years ago. She could have even settled for sperm from a tall, blond, blue-eyed American engineer of Danish descent. Fortunately for her, she has the resources to fly to Denmark on her own, which she will soon do for the third time.
Furthermore, the American government performs little oversight of the assisted reproduction industry, and has come under fierce criticism for taking inadequate steps in the face of mad cow disease.
The greatest benefit of assisted reproductive technologies is to enable the infertile to have children. But Peterson does not fall in that category. It appears that she just does not have a partner during the twilight of her fertile years. Her desire a particular reproductive outcome has collided with what appears to be a sensible, and minimal, regulation. Her sense of entitlement is surpassed only by the silliness of the front page coverage offered by the Washington Post.
Previously on Biopolitical Times: