Egg Donor, part 1: Eugenics meets Marketing

Published May 2, 2014 | By Greg Hodgson-Fopp

Choosing an Egg Donor

As I have discussed before, when we initially requested egg donor profiles from the agency, we were working on the assumption that I would be the biological father of our first (singleton) child. So we were initially asked for our criteria, we said all the things people usually say, I guess.

Healthy. Emotionally balanced. Intelligent. Charismatic. Attractive.

But we also added Caucasian, blonde and blue eyed and relatively small-framed. This was to try to make a mix of my genes and the donor’s look a little bit like it might have been a mix of my genes and Matt’s. Of course, mixing two men’s genes to make a baby is still a year or two off. The science is very optimistic, but we aren’t going to wait for that. Perhaps the next generation of gaybys will get that choice. 

We were initially sent a handful of profiles, and we began to sift.

What’s in a Donor Profile?

A donor profile starts with the basics you would expect – age, weight, race, religion (this is America, remember), occupation and marital status. Then it moves to to the slightly more detailed – hair colour, real hair colour, childhood hair colour, and starts to ask things you wouldn’t feel comfortable asking a new friend (or even some old ones) – did you wear braces? Have you ever had plastic surgery? Are you of Jewish descent? What is the exact ethnic make-up of your father? Your mother? How tall are you? How tall is your mother? Your father?

Then the profiles get into the real nitty-gritty. They ask for the full medical history of both sides of the family, including asking about a dozen different health conditions that you really wouldn’t ask in polite company. If any family member is not living, the exact details of their death are asked, and this then also extends to any and all siblings as well.

But then it got really personal. It asked about diet, exercise, sexual partners, menstrual cycle, what type of birth control has been used, have they ever had an abortion, how long do they bleed for, etc. It goes into a lot of raw physiological data and it doesn’t shy away from asking fairly intrusive questions like ‘How many sexual partners have you had?’, even.

Following that, they’re asked to provide the statistics for all their schooling and education. Whether they got A’s or B’s in primary school, what extra curricular activities did they undertake, and whether they went to one school or multiple schools.

It gave us a lot of background data about a lot of blonde Californian women. I wonder if I could re-use the data for peer-group studies, make some generalisations about Californian girls, perhaps.

And into their heads we go…

Then comes the psychological profile. They were given a series of questions about themselves to answer, which were all free-text, so they could express their personality. It starts with things that are actually related to the process  - “Why have you decided to become an egg donor?”, but it also moves quickly on to their characteristics.

To be frank, I’m not sure how I would have answered these questions if I was handed that questionnaire. It’s a bit daunting. Try some of the questions yourself:

“Please describe your personality now, as an adolescent, and as a child:”

“What are your personal goals in life?”

“What brings you the most joy in life?”

“How do you act when you get angry?”

These small samples would give you some idea of the level of depth that these forms went into. We have this profile of data on which to make our decision, and when you’re sent between four and ten of these profiles at a time, it’s a whack to read through, and a really important decision hanging over doing it right. It also asked them to describe their parent’s personalities as well, and any full-blood siblings that they have, too.

Starting from good intentions…

After reading a few of these, I actually put them all down, closed my mail and spent a couple of days delaying making a decision because I actually felt a bit uncomfortable about the process.

We’d started the process making the same statements that I am sure that dozens of different parents before us would have made. We said things like:

“We don’t care as long as they’re healthy”

“We just want a normal, happy child.”

But then there are So. Many. Profiles. to sift through. You have to make a short-list somehow. The breadth of options made us start to filter them based on other criteria that started to feel a lot more like we were straying further and further away from this. I think I realised I was automatically rejecting every candidate who had an academic record that wasn’t meeting my somewhat arbitrary criteria.

And you end up in Eugenics…

When asked to make a simple comparison: Would you use an egg donor whose family has no trace of cancer, or would you use an egg donor whose grandmother had breast cancer. Simple question, simple answer, you choose the first egg donor. Of course. That’s just making the right healthy choices for your babies.

Okay, next question. This egg donor has slightly higher grades than that one. Which? The higher grades of course.

Okay, moving on. This egg donor made a typo in her character profile, versus this one who did not. Which? Well, surely the one with attention-to-detail, right? No?

But when you have 20-40 profiles, you can get pretty arbitrary very quickly. Some of the reasons for rejecting profiles were starting to looking pretty shallow:

She is too Short.

Her grades were only “A” not “A+”.

Her Grandmother died quite young.

Her Brothers all didn’t finish school.

Her father has high blood pressure.

She had to wear braces.

She had a boob job.

Her one regret in life is “Not Being Taller, so I could be a model.”

She did a nonsense degree at University.

She looks drunk in that photo.

She’s doing duckface at the camera in this photo (I personally think that’s the most justified rejection).


These were all reasons I deleted Egg Donor profiles. Yes, by the end of the process, I was THAT shallow. It’s not like I’ve never been drunk, and at least one of my University degrees is blatant nonsense.

I have always thought that Eugenics was a bad thing. Until some very well meaning marketing people trying to sell me eggs starting making me make hard choices about which egg donors I would or would not be interested in contacting to find out about. Suddenly, I found myself right there, making distinctly morally questionable choices when selecting an egg donor of our own.

Boiling it down to basics, out of all those criteria, we still had around 4-5 profiles which we could not find any conceivable reason to reject.

But in the end our reason for selecting the one we chose was a lot more human…

…. more in part 2.