Jennalee Ryan, in San Antonio, Texas, is offering pre-frozen embryos to momas and daddies who like the selection in the Abraham Center for Life catalog.
In the terms used for new homes, she’s not building custom babies or even semi-custom babies, she’s offering “spec” babies. If the babies were dresses, these might be called “designer babies,” but we’re getting close to “off the rack,” as noted by Washington Post reporter, Rob Stein, at the link above. If we were at a restaurant, we’d be restricted to the menu, with no a la carte or “on the side” requests! The “product” is sitting there in the freezer, not being made to order.
BTW, Mr. Stein quotes an ethicist from the University of Texas at Austin,
“I know some people say: ‘This is shocking. Embryos made to order,’ ” said John Robertson of the University of Texas at Austin, who advises fertility specialists on ethical issues. “But if you step back a little bit, you realize that people are already choosing sperm and egg donors in separate transactions. Combining them doesn’t pose any new major ethical problems.”
Mr. Robertson makes sense, and he is technically correct. There is no difference between selecting a sperm donor or oocyte donor for artificial insemination or in vitro fertilization, as has been done for years. Except in this case, we are actually creating embryonic humans in a high risk environment, since the “good” ones are sold and/or frozen, the “failed” ones are discarded.
It should be noted, however, that Lawyer Robertson is the current chair of the Ethics Committee of the American Society of Reproductive Medicine, and hhas argued in favor of sex selection by abortion. (report available here and the transcript is here.)