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The Baby Business

by Debora L. Spar Harvard Business School Press; $26.95

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Three pages into The Baby Business, author Debora Spar informs you that “when parents buy eggs or sperm; when they contract with surrogates; when they choose a child to adopt or an embryo to implant, they are doing business. Firms are making money, customers are making choices, and children—for better or worse—are being sold.” My red flags immediately started waving and I was tempted to abandon the book. But as Spar maintains: “The Baby Business does not insist that this market is good or evil. It simply argues that it exists.”

I kept reading and I’m glad that I did. Spar, a professor at Harvard Business School, dispassionately explores the ever-growing range of reproductive technologies, including artificial insemination, hormone treatments, IVF, embryo adoption, and others. I adopted my two children before America’s first IVF baby was born, so this book was an eye-opener about today’s world of baby-making.

The Baby Business devotes a chapter to adoption, describing a system of “fees, facilitations, and charity.” Spar hopes that the assisted reproduction business will turn to the government-regulated adoption system for guidance.

After you’ve read and cringed your way through this book you finally reach the Acknowledgements, where Spar reveals that she adopted her daughter from Russia halfway through the book’s production. She writes of her daughter, “Her journey shows how remarkable the baby business can be—and how important it is to make it work.” Pick up the book, start with the Acknowledgements and work your way backward if you must, but keep reading.

Reviewed by Lois Gilman, the mother of two adult children adopted internationally and the author of The Adoption Resource Book (Collins).

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