Baby-Making Blather

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In an interview at Salon, Harvard economist Debora Spar argues, convincingly, that because people are squeamish about acknowledging the existence of the fertility industry, the business of babymaking has so far avoided heavy federal regulation. She then instructs us to buck up, start talking about a commerce in kids, and regulate the hell out of it:

There is still a puritan element among many people who really want to believe that reproduction is a private, intimate process, guided by Mother Nature. It's not the kind of issue on which people have felt comfortable organizing politically.

I didn't realize puritans were so wild for reproductive freedom. Or that the concept of privacy rights went out with lace shifts and linen caps. Spar argues that when we stop being so damn prissy, we'll realize that fertility is now a business. And businesses need regulating. Bizarrely, she throws in:

Well, the irony is that the only technology that is getting loaded with regulation in this country is stem cell technology. Which arguably is the one that has the greatest probability of saving existing lives. So we're not regulating the technologies that are allowing us to produce new lives, but we are regulating the ones that can save existing lives. That makes no sense.

Yes, it is strange that the science of saving lives is so heavily regulated, but you can only see that this is a problem once you acknowledge that regulation will slow innovation and limit access. So calling anyone who fears fertility regulation a hopeless Luddite hardly makes sense.

Whole thing here.

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  1. that because people are squeamish about acknowledging the existence of the fertility industry

    Is that really the reason? Or is it that the percentage of the population that requires fertility treatments is so low that there just isn’t enough demand to get the attention of regulators?

    I’ve never personally talked to anyone about fertility treatments and felt there was any sqeamishness about the topic at all. Maybe my limited anecdotal evidence is leading me down the wrong path, but I just never noticed this to be an uncomfortable subject — other than trying to be sensitive to the person who is having toruble conceiving.

  2. We need to start regulating Harvard professors.

  3. “There is still a puritan element among many people who really want to believe that reproduction is a private, intimate process, guided by Mother Nature. It’s not the kind of issue on which people have felt comfortable organizing politically.”

    While this statement is, in a very narrow context ok on the surface, what she’s really getting at is quite disturbing.

    Sure her position is pro-choice, women’s rights, reproductive rights, blah blah blah. All well and good. But the finer point that she’s making is that she wants Congress to start regulating reproduction. She believes that kids are interstate commerce. And for me, this is precisely where liberals practically always reliably skid off the road, and drive right off the reservation. And also why my heart never bleeds for them when their beloved “Medical” Marijuana(tm) gets regulated or banned.

    Reproduction is a private, intimate process, guided by the Reproducers, at least. The constant push to make everything in the private become the public is, to say the least, getting on my fucking nerves.

    I’m trying’, I’m tryin’ real hard, Ringo, but this shit is really pissing me off. What initially masquerades as ‘rights’ or ‘right to privacy (yeah, right)’, always morphs into federal regulation, public scrutiny and expensive subsidies.
    ==
    because “it is difficult to conceive of a child as commerce” — no one is willing to call the baby business what it is: an industry. And as long as it’s not truly considered an industry, it will continue to fly under the regulatory radar, she says. Indeed, fertility is one of the extremely few U.S. industries that “operate with virtually no rules” — not much more beyond a requirement that clinics report their success rates to the CDC (which has no means of actually enforcing that requirement). Spar’s contention: “Governments need to play a more active role in regulating the baby trade.”
    ==

    Then they talk about how reasonable regulation could ‘democratice’ instead of politicize the fertility industry. What stuns me about these tools is they never learn. They never, ever, ever, ever, ever learn. Let me say it again, clearly and loudly for all to hear: When the government gets involved in your business, your business becomes the government’s bitch. It NEVER occurs to these idiots, even WHILE George W. Bush is in office that the government may not always look the way they want it to be.

    What utterly fascinates me about this woman’s complete and extraordinary cognitive disconnect, is she whines about the politicization of stem cell research that government intervention has wrought, but sees no irony in clamouring for regulation of the reproductive process. And what really annoys me, is these people make way more money than I do, yet in their case, clearly someone made off with the family brain cell and has yet to return it.

  4. How much for the little girl?

    Quote from The Blues Brothers circa 1980.

  5. Paul, before you get too caught up in your references to “they” and “them,” I’d like to say as a liberal that I totally agree with you that this lady is clearly off her rocker.

  6. This lady has it completely backwards. Fertility treatments are a luxury item, not a life and death matter. And everyone recognizes that this is a luxury goods and services industry and regulates it accordingly.

    Our society rejects the idea that a person should not have a broken arm treated, even if they can’t pay for it, and so we have all kinds of programs. But if you need eggs or sperm or even a whole woman to be able to make a child, nobody thinks that society owes them those things any more than society owes you a new ES300.

  7. NPR had a story a few months ago about a change in local (Connecticut) law: insurance companies are now required to provide fertility treatments to women who want them, but only until the woman reaches a certain age–either 35 or 40, I don’t recall which. I oppose any insurance-fertility requirements because I agree with JohnL that they are a luxury item, not a health necessity, but I was especially ticked off to hear all these women complaining that it isn’t fair that they should be denied hundred-thousand-dollar medical treatments just because they’re too old for them to likely achieve anything.

    Free advice to my fellow women: if you want a biological child that badly, DON’T WAIT UNTIL YOUR EGGS START GOING ROTTEN. Spoiled self-centered dumbasses.

  8. Jennifer – And if your sperm or eggs are almost shot you should cut your losses and outsource those items rather than grow even older in a childless home throwing good money after bad trying to make something with your own junk. Considering the inconvenience that egg doners go through the prices for those are *very* low. Treatments are too expensive and an empty nursery too hard to be too picky about DNA.

  9. JohnL–

    They can also try adopting a pre-existing baby, which is also cheaper than fertility treatments or hiring an egg donor. But I suspect that, at least for the whining women I heard on that NPR show, that won’t be good enough–it’s not that they want the experience of raising a child, it’s that they think their own personal DNA is so utterly fabulous that God forbid it not be reproduced into the next generation.

  10. So this friend of mine got endomeetrises or something and they said she could never have kids! And she’s only 23! Can you believe that?

  11. Adoption has its own risks. Losing an actual child in Russia when they decide it would be better off in an orphanage than with you in the USA must be even harder than losing a plan about a child. And there just aren’t a lot of white babies out there. And there is a huge effort to keep white families from adopting non-white kids.

    I think this is a case where squeamishness and over-regulation is making the market inefficient. Why don’t abortion clinics advise good looking women that old rich people will pay tens of thousands for their unwanted children? The egg market is less regulated and gives buyers and sellers more opportunity.

  12. JohnL–

    My (white) friend and his wife adopted a baby Indian girl from Guatemala about three years ago. They reported no problems with their racial differences, and the total costs, even counting the time they had to spend down there, were much less than trying to adopt a European baby.

    These adoption agencies in the US who would rather keep a non-white child in an orphanage than see her adopted by a white family need to be shut down, and the staff members slapped hard every day for the rest of their life.

  13. And of course, the doctors and clinics have no interest in being regulated.

    The next paragraph in the article reads,

    Meanwhile, the politicians don’t want to touch this with a 10-foot pole. You cannot talk about reproductive technology without touching on abortion, because the underlying mechanism is the same.

    Man, keep that 10-foot pole away from my reproductive mechanism!

  14. You cannot talk about reproductive technology without touching on abortion, because the underlying mechanism is the same.

    Not sure I follow here. The “underlying mechanism” necessary to jump-start a reluctant womb is the same as the one for terminating an existing fetus/baby?

    Implanting a fertilized egg is the same as flushing one out?

    I don’t get it.

  15. So this friend of mine got endomeetrises or something and they said she could never have kids! And she’s only 23! Can you believe that?

    So what? I’m realizing some of my joints are starting to give me some level of pain- all the time.

    I just took up snowboarding. Bad things hapen to good people ( and they get no gooder than me) that sometimes make it impossible to do something they want. If I get to a place where I can no longer snowboard, I’ll quit. I won’t be testifying before congress. Get it?

  16. Paul, what does snowboarding have to do with having kids?

    You’re dumb.

  17. Paul, what does snowboarding have to do with having kids?

    I’ll keep it simple and use small words.

    I assumed your comment was a thinly veiled sarcastic response to Jennifer’s comment about older ‘career driven’ women waiting until their eggs were ‘rotten’ and then whining that they couldn’t have children. Then we have to listen to these same women whine about the expensive cost of reproductive therapies.

    What we’re talking about here is, regardless of Jennifer’s comment, why do we need regulation of this industry which, by the author’s own admisson was invented, got started and blossomed without intervention and subsidies from the government?

    My point: Who cares WHY you can’t have kids. That’s between you and your insurance company. Leave me out of your reproductive decisions- they’re private.

  18. It pisses me off when states tell insurance companies they must cover something. Why must they cover it? Why can’t I choose a policy that does not cover it? Why do I have to pay premiums for something I don’t want?

    Governments are stupid nosy assholes. Like I need to tell anyone here that.

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