The Embryo Factory
The business logic of made-to-order babies.
Next comes the integration of surrogacy. If packaging eggs and sperm with IVF improves quality control and cuts expenses, why not add gestation? The embryo you're buying is biologically foreign to you, anyway. Why risk it in your infertile, 40-year-old body when Ryan can find a healthy 25-year-old to carry it for you? She already advertises this service for an extra fee: "pre-screened surrogate mothers available." And since her embryo sales pitch relies heavily on the bottom line—a superior "pregnancy success rate"—why not sell the embryo-surrogate package based on its birth-success rate? That's what buyers ultimately care about. With a network of reliable surrogates, Ryan or a competitor might even make payment contingent on the final product. Cash on delivery.
To Ryan, embryos are inventory. "I saw a demand for something and created the product," she told to the San Antonio Current. The doctor who mixed Ryan's first batch of embryos was aghast to discover their fate, but Ryan insists, "If they are my embryos, legally, what I do with those embryos is really none of her business." What if clients aren't satisfied with the embryos? "If they don't think it's right for them, they don't have to take them," she shrugs. With surrogacy, that policy could be extended for weeks. Tested, personalized, affordable, disposable. You've come a long way, baby.
Will Saletan covers science, technology, and politics for Slate and says a lot of things that get him in trouble.
Illustration by Robert Neubecker.