Making Babies

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The People

Meet the characters featured in FROZEN ANGELS.

Bill Handel, a balding middle-aged man, sits at a radio microphone with an intense look on his face as he gestures with his hand, about to speak

Bill Handel
Radio Personality and Director of The Center for Surrogate Parenting

“Technology has come to human reproduction in a big, big way and this, my friends, is the future looking right at us.”

“Unplugged and seemingly out of control” is how radio KFI AM 640 advertises lawyer Bill Handel’s top rated Everything You Need to Know Before You Get to Work radio call-in show. People call Handel, the most popular talk-show radio host on the West Coast, from traffic jams on the Santa Monica Freeway to complain about their unfaithful spouses or their criminal teenage offspring. Some complain about having everything: a perfect suburban villa, three cars and the career of their dreams. The only thing missing in their perfectly air-conditioned lives is an heir. On this subject, Handel’s voice goes up an octave: he is the proud father of twin, nine-year-old girls, whose gender was selected and conceived by in vitro fertilization. Handel is also the owner and director of The Center for Surrogate Parenting, the world’s largest agency for surrogate mothers and egg donors, based in Encino, California. People from all over the world come to use his services (in most countries, these practices are banned). The price is $64,000 for a surrogate arrangement and $80,000 if an additional egg donation is needed. Business is flourishing. But on the subject of altering DNA to create disease-free humans, Handel is more apprehensive: it reminds him of eugenics. His father was lucky to have survived the Holocaust but his Jewish grandparents were murdered at Auschwitz.

Dr. Cappy Rothman, an older  bald-headed man, in a lab coat and glasses, stands in an office holding a vial

Dr. Cappy Rothman
Co-founder, California Cryobank

Dr. Rothman, 63, is one of the founders of the California Cryobank, the largest sperm bank in the world, which freezes and distributes sperm, embryos and stem cells. For $195, plus postage, you can order an “overnight male” from the company's Internet catalog. All donors are sorted by categories such as race, blood type, religion and college education. The sixth largest user of FedEx in Southern California, Cryobank’s offices are located close to the campus of UCLA, guaranteeing a high concentration of college education among the donors. The bank distributes 2,000 ampoules of sperm a month to 45 different countries. Rothman was also the first practitioner of post-mortem sperm retrieval. He claims there is less grief for the wife or other family members if some of the dead man’s sperm is saved, to inseminate the wife later or to allow his parents to hire a surrogate mother. Three years ago, the first “post-mortem baby” was born, two years after the death of her father. Rothman is currently working on research to implant eggs of infertile women into genetically manipulated mice. In his free time, he golfs, conducts fertility experiments with female gorillas in the zoo and performs free sterilization operations in Third World countries such as Thailand and Peru. He is an active promoter and firm believer in zero population growth.

Lori Andrews, a middle-aged woman with shoulder-length blonde hair and bangs, sits at a KFI radio mic, smiling as she speaks

Lori Andrews
Bioethicist and Law Professor

According to USA Today, Lori Andrews is “on the short list” of experts on the moral, ethical and legal intricacies of human reproduction. Andrews passed her bar exam on the same day in 1979 that the first test-tube baby, Louise Brown, was born. Today, she is the author of nine books, including The Clone Age, and has become an internationally recognized expert on biotechnologies. Her litigation of reproductive and genetic technologies and the disposition of frozen embryos caused the National Law Journal to list her as one of the 100 most influential lawyers in America. Doctors call her up with questions such as “We have six men in comas whose wives, girlfriends or parents want their sperm. What do we do?” or “I have 300 unclaimed embryos in my freezer. Can I give them to other couples in a prenatal adoption? Or should I just terminate them?” Andrews was chair of the federal working group on the Ethical, Legal and Social Implications of the Human Genome Project. She quit for moral reasons. She felt scientists were charging ahead without sufficient concern for the social consequences of genetic testing and the patenting of human genes. Today she’s often invited by foreign governments, such as Dubai, as a consultant for stem cell research and human cloning. In her 25-year career in dealing with reproductive technologies, she has never stopped asking: Do we really want this?

Read Lori Andrews’s essay, Brave New Babies >>

Dr. Gregory Stock, with graying hair and wearing a black long-sleeved turtleneck, is showing the shape of something with both his hands

Dr. Gregory Stock
Director of the Medicine, Technology and Society Program, UCLA School of Medicine

Dr. Gregory Stock is the director of the influential Program on Medicine, Technology and Society at UCLA’s School of Medicine. He is the author of numerous books and publications, including Redesigning Humans and the paper Human Germline Engineering—The Prospects for Commercial Development. Stock has had public debates with his opponent Jeremy Rifkin (author of The Biotech Century) and he frequently hosts conferences on the subject. Stock raves about the future possibilities of controlling mankind’s evolution with “dramatically extended human life spans” or “children with genetically enhanced intelligence, endurance and other traits." He asks, “No one really has the guts to say it, but if we could make better human beings by knowing how to add genes, why shouldn’t we?” In Stock’s opinion, mankind has no choice but to acknowledge and accept its new growing powers: “We have begun to play God in so many intimate realms of life that we could not turn back if we tried. Wait a few years. We will see a human clone within the decade.”

A profile image of Kari, a “California girl” in her late twenties, with long blonde hair, blue eyes and white teeth

Kari C.
Egg Donor

Kari looks the part of poster girl for white suburbia in her profile in the Egg Donor, Inc. catalog: 27 years old, blonde and blue-eyed. Would-be parents can purchase Kari’s eggs for $8,000 and with them, presumably, her All-American characteristics. To be an egg donor, Kari has undergone extensive physical, genetic and psychological screening. When she is matched with a couple, Kari receives two injections daily for months to stimulate and synchronize her reproductive cycle with that of the woman seeking in vitro fertilization. Seemingly unaware of the increased health and infertility risks, she complains of the pain she has the week after retrieval and of the incredible arrogance and insensitivity of the doctors. “I don’t need much money for my eggs,” says Kari. “I want to do something good.” Kari, who is separated from her husband, has two young, blonde biological sons whom she is raising alone. She uses the money she makes selling her eggs to support her pursuit of a teaching credential in music education at the local community college. She plays flute, clarinet, saxophone, oboe, guitar and bass, composes music and has her own band. In Egg Donation, Inc.’s catalog under “favorite book” Kari’s answer is Brave New World.

Doron Blake, a young man with long brown hair pulled back in a ponytail, a wispy moustache and goatee, looks at the camera

Doron Blake
Designer Baby

At two years old, Doron Blake could use a computer. At six, he wrote a successful children’s book. The intelligence test his mother pushed him to take revealed a genius-level IQ of 180 and an extreme talent for music—just as she had planned. Doron, now 20, owes his existence to a sperm bank exclusively offering sperm from Nobel Prize winners and other acknowledged geniuses. Californian inventor Robert Graham founded the “Repository for Germinal Choice” in 1979 with the vision of a Noah’s Ark for intellect and talents. However, he found only a few Nobel Prize winners willing to give their sperm for the creation of the intelligence elite of tomorrow, for when Graham was attacked as a Frankenstein and a Nazi, the shocked donors recoiled. As one of America’s first designer babies, all Doron knows about his father is his “batch” number: 28. His mother, Afton Blake, is a middle-aged hippie and New Age psychologist living in Los Angeles. Blake has dragged Doron (meaning “gift of God”) to talk shows, photo sessions and interviews since his infancy. But the more his life continued to resemble a public show, the more he withdrew into his inner world. He has rejected studying elite subjects at elite universities. Instead, Doron is an introverted student of psychology who plays three different instruments but has few social contacts. Doron prefers to investigate the universe alone—and to find his place in it on his own terms.

Amy and Steve Jurewicz, in their mid-40s, sit side-by-side on a sofa in a living room; she has dark short hair and glasses and is smiling, he has graying hair, and is speaking

Amy and Steve Jurewicz
Prospective Parents

Amy and Steve Jurewicz tried everything. After 15 years of expensive in vitro fertilization attempts and painful and invasive surgeries, it was clear Amy was infertile. Still, they didn’t give up on having a baby. Their desire to have their own child was too strong. Now in their mid-40s and successful scientists on the NASA Mars and Solar Missions, they felt an ever-increasing emptiness and loneliness they wanted to fill with a child. They looked into egg donation, but Amy could not carry a baby. They looked into newborn adoption, but were scared away by social workers who found them too old to be suitable parents. Finally, they came to Bill Handel and his surrogacy program. For $80,000, they hired Kim Brewer, a traditional surrogate, to be artificially inseminated with Steve’s sperm and carry their child.

Kim Brewer, a woman in her twenties, with dark shoulder-length hair and bangs, sunglasses on her head, stands next to a car pumping gas at a gas station

Kim Brewer

Kim Brewer was thrilled when she first read the advertisement: “Agency looking for surrogate mothers.” At 18, without being able to explain why, she immediately knew that was what she wanted to do: have the experience of being pregnant and delivering children into the world without having to be a mother. She applied, but was rejected on the grounds she needed to be married and have had at least one child of her own. But she persisted. After her marriage and her first son was born, she reapplied, this time successfully, bringing a baby to term for an infertile couple. Now she works for Bill Handel’s agency where Amy and Steve were her second client couple. It seemed natural to her to hand the child over at birth. Sometimes she has nightmares of an 18 year old, knocking on her door, accusing her of having given them away. “As heartless as it may seem," she says, "I never felt attached to the baby.”

Learn about available procreation options >>

Read one expert’s opinion on reproductive technology >>


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