Now Available Online: Trophy Children

  • Share
  • Read Later
Family planning is about to take on a whole new meaning, at least according to the business plan of Ron Harris. On Monday, Harris launched Rons Angels, a web site where wealthy would-be parents can view photos of professional models and bid on their eggs (and, coming soon, sperm). Harris has also posted an editorial defending the ethics of his brand of cybereugenics, in which he calls the bidding a form of "natural selection": By simply being beautiful, you earn up to $150,000 for your ova, and for being rich, you buy "the best" — a beautiful child. This Harris terms "evolving upward." At least one person is buying it: Before even launching, the site received a pledge of $42,000 for a model's eggs.

Yet TIME senior science writer Michael Lemonick says Rons Angels is destined to remain a novelty with narrow appeal. "We're talking about a huge amount of money and an extremely shallow set of values for people to do this," Lemonick says. "And people still want a child that's genetically theirs." Nevertheless, the site, which received over a million hits during its first day, has both parents' groups and fertility associations in an uproar. There is concern for the children: Imagine the burden on a child with a weight problem and no mole whose parents paid a fortune for a miniature Cindy Crawford. Further, infertility groups fear that this will put in vitro fertilization (which serves parents who are unable to have children) in a negative light. Indeed, while sperm and egg banks often have photographs and other donor information (SAT scores, athletic ability, etc.), none are conducted as auctions. As far as cyberworld innovations go, this may be one of nerve — or bad taste — rather than discovering an untapped market; Ebay, for one, has specifically banned the selling of eggs and sperm. At 150,000 bucks, you have to wonder if these kids come with a money-back guarantee.