- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Is it custom-designing a baby in the image of your favorite celebrity? The next logical step of the evolutionary desire for attractiveness? A silly result of sperm-donor anonymity rules? Or all that and more?

The Los Angeles sperm bank that began a celebrity-inspired Donor Look-a-Like service has raised eyebrows and hackles among champions and critics of artificial insemination.

California Cryobank launched the service in late July to allow clients to search for donors who best resemble certain actors, artists and athletes.

Wendy Kramer, executive and founder of Donor Sibling Registry, an organization that works to connect people born by sperm donation, said, “My first reaction was ‘What? Celebrity look-alikes? That’s the best they can do to get PR?’”

W. Keith Campbell, a social psychology professor at the University of Georgia, said the service also resembles a form of celebrity worship.

“I think it is clear that they are latching on to this huge trend in society which I call the democracy of celebrities,” he said. “The big trends we’ve seen is that fame in terms of a goal or value has become much more important.”

People may try to look more like their favorite celebrities by wearing replica jerseys of athletes or following stars’ fashion styles, and this service is just a “thread of the larger fabric,” he said.

Mr. Campbell said reality television, social networking sites and other trends only fuel the desire for fame and fortune. The service, however, “does make sense” and is not surprising, he said.

“I can see why a company would do this because it is getting people interested in the process,” he said. “It seems like a good hook for people to go to their site.”

Ronald Green, director of the Ethics Institute at Dartmouth College, said the service is not as “ill-guided as it might appear” and he does not see it as a “major issue.”

Although it is difficult to grade attractiveness, Mr. Green said, parents want to give their children the best start in life and are simply trying to improve their chances.

“Appearances are a very important factor in sperm selection,” he said. “I feel that people have tried to have attractive children from the beginning of time. We do that with our mate selection. We don’t pick somebody that we don’t find attractive.

“If the physical appearance was being sought to the exclusion of all other things such as character, intelligence and warmth, then I would really worry, but that is not what is happening here.”

Scott Brown, a spokesman for Cryobank, said the service may appear to be “something that it’s not” and insisted that it is not a “designer baby factory.”

He said Cryobank’s clients truly understand the reason behind the service and are not caught up with the idea of what the baby will look like.

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