Picks and Pans Review: The Baby Makers

updated 04/04/1988 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 04/04/1988 AT 01:00 AM EDT

by Diana Frank and Maria Vogel

Anyone contemplating using the new high-tech breakthroughs that allow infertile couples to have children should read this book. A general survey of what's available in the supermarket of science for childless couples, the book touches on the personal, medical and social responses to the burgeoning baby industry. The authors, both journalists, interviewed more than 100 scientists, doctors, administrators, couples and singles who have entered the brave new world of artificial insemination, in vitro fertilization, surrogate mothers and gamete intrafallopian transfer (GIFT), in which eggs are first extracted, then reinserted in a woman's fallopian tubes with her mate's sperm. One woman who subjected herself to nine years of unsuccessful fertility procedures admitted, "Infertility makes you feel like a lab animal." And that's not the only problem. Businessmen and doctors who profit from infertility, subject to little or no legal regulation, can easily exploit those desperate for progeny. While the authors for the most part seem objective, they are surprisingly misleading on the subject of surrogate mothers. They maintain that the women who volunteer their bodies and genetic offspring, usually for a payment of about $10,000, are not exploited, nor are they, the authors imply, real mothers. Frank and Vogel ignore the argument that using the word "surrogate" to describe the natural mother is really a stroke of marketing genius that distances the practice from the taboo of baby-selling. Whatever the outcome of the surrogacy controversy, Americans' pride in being pioneers and parents is likely to keep the high-tech baby business booming. And an enjoyable aspect of this book is the chance to share the joy of couples who otherwise would never have experienced childbirth. When the test-tube babies and their experimental contemporaries come of age in the 21st century, one hopes Frank and Vogel, or authors of equal understanding, will record what their feelings about it all are. (Carroll & Graf, $18.95)

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