Valerie Bauman wanted a baby, but wanted to do so by herself. So she started looking into sperm banks, but quickly realized they “weren’t the answer, not for me.” In an article in Newsweek, she writes, “I wanted to know the person who would help me create my child, to be able to give my kid answers and insights into where they came from.”

In the article, adapted from her new book, “Inconceivable: Super Sperm Donors, Off-the-Grid Insemination, and Unconventional Family Planning,” Bauman describes not only her journey, but those of many other single women (as well as same-sex couples) who say they want a baby without the traditional steps of finding a romantic partner and marrying them, but who also think there may be some utility in knowing the person whose child you are going to bear.

Bauman found that the information the sperm banks offered her was superficial. They offered physical characteristics of the donor, and information about schooling and professions, and apparently some donors even wrote letters about why they wanted to donate. But Bauman realized, “There was no way to get a real read on these guys. Plus, they were getting paid — was it just about the money? Could they really be prepared to face my kid in 18 years, if he or she showed up seeking a relationship?”

She goes on, “I wanted to know this person. I wanted a baby, yes. But it was important to me that the baby grow up to be a kind and happy person. None of this information was going to help me make that happen.”

So Bauman wants a man who is not only not doing this for the money, someone she can trust and someone who can help her child become a kind and happy person. Many people would call that a father. But that gets alarmingly close to the “conventional” family planning that Bauman and many other people find so unappealing.

On the one hand, Bauman and many of the people she interviews are clearly desperate to have a child. Some are couples experiencing infertility, but some are single women who may have waited too long. They “seemed to be in their later 30s and realizing that they were in a now-or-never moment,” she writes.

She cites data to support this “existential crisis” — “In 2021, new births among women ages 20 to 24 declined by 3 percent, but they rose as much as 5 percent for women ages 25 to 44.” And many of these women find fertility treatments and purchasing sperm through a sperm bank to be too expensive.

This desperation also creates problems, which Bauman says is a sign that maybe our health care market is not meeting the needs of everyone. Or maybe this is a problem money can only go so far in solving. The “unregulated sperm market” she discovers is, not surprisingly, plagued by predatory behavior.

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She notes that some donors try to coerce women into sex acts in order to obtain their sperm. “The world of freelance sperm contains many creeps who are just trying to get laid. It also contains men with a breeding fetish who want to see their DNA spread far and wide — without regard for the children who then must contend with dozens of siblings.”

For people trying to have a child in this fashion, Bauman recommends taking your time and getting to know men before you use their sperm. At one point she says she regrets trying to have a romantic relationship with a potential sperm donor. Because, apparently, you wouldn’t want to mix up your romantic prospects with finding a guy to be the father of your children.

When asked what could help the situation, Bauman recommends that sperm banks host these exchanges. Right now, most clinics will only do transfers between “romantic partners” but not “sexually intimate partners.” But the definition of sexually intimate isn’t what you might think: “The more progressive clinics consider someone a sexually intimate partner when someone’s sperm has previously been inside of the recipient — even if via artificial insemination.”

The recent decision by the Alabama Supreme Court about the legal status of frozen embryos has unleashed all sorts of concern about people having access to fertility treatments. And no doubt there will always be people who want to have children but will need medical help to do so. But this is largely a problem that social pressures — not biological challenges — have created for women.

It would be all but impossible to explain the “freelance sperm market” to someone who was born in 1950. One wonders: What is motivating Bauman to behave like this? She clearly doesn’t believe, as Gloria Steinem once put it, that women need men like a fish needs a bicycle. Men clearly have their uses and not just in producing sperm. She wants her future children to have a relationship with the man who gave them half their DNA.

She is desperate to have a child and she is apparently also not opposed to romantic relationships with men. Maybe there is something to the idea that you ought to start looking for a partner when you’re a little younger — someone who fulfills all these ideals of being attractive and kind and successful — and then try to have a baby and build a family with them. Now that would be radical.

Naomi Schaefer Riley is a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, a Deseret News contributor and the author of “No Way to Treat a Child: How the Foster Care System, Family Courts, and Racial Activists Are Wrecking Young Lives,” among other books.