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Woman Stymied In Drive For 'Beautiful Viking Baby'

New federal health regulations meant to protect Americans from mad cow disease now prohibit the import of semen from European sperm banks. Apparently before the ban, Nordic donations commanded top-dollar in American clinics.

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SCOTT SIMON, host:

Even in a week dominated by news about Georgia, Russia and the Olympic games, there are water-cooler stories, maybe latte-sipping stores these days, news stories that invite everyone to gather round and express an opinion. Julie Peterson may be that kind of story.

Ms. Peterson, who's a North Carolina chiropractor, can no longer locally buy semen from Denmark. New federal health regulations meant to protect Americans from mad cow disease now prohibit the import of semen from European sperm banks. Apparently before the ban, Nordic donations commanded top dollar in American clinics.

There has been no documented case of mad cow being transmitted by semen, but some doctors say that the research is so thin, it's not worth the risk, especially when there are domestically-produced alternatives.

Miss Peterson, who's unmarried, already has one baby conceived from a vial furnished by a Danish donor whom she's nicknamed Sven(ph). Now they've never met, but according to clinic records Sven is a tall, blond, blue-eyed Danish engineer. So instead of paying 500 dollars at the local sperm bank, Miss Peterson is now in Denmark for another donation from Sven, her third expensive trip that she hopes will produce a pregnancy. She worries that she may run out of money in time.

Now there's nothing more personal than children, and I do not believe I'm in a position, in this forum or any other, to criticize anyone's most intimate choices, but some of the quotes attributed to Miss Peterson this week, frankly, made me squirm.

She told the Washington Post News Service, quote, "I'm Swedish-Norwegian and I really wanted to have a gene pool that was similar to my own. I wanted a baby that looked like me and wanted to share my heritage with my baby. Now I have a beautiful Viking baby, which is what I wanted. I was hoping to give her a full sibling."

I don't know if that kind of reasoning is racist, but it is certainly preoccupied with genetics and bloodlines. To be blunt, it makes me feel creepy. Who's to say that a child she could adopt from Guatemala or a baby conceived with a father who's Irish or Navajo can't share Julie Peterson's interest in Scandinavian heritage? Does she really want children or just sophisticated dolls who will look and act just like her? And what happens when her beautiful little Viking becomes a real kid and decides that she likes hip-hop, Bollywood movies or dyes her hair purple?

I understand that such strong physical preferences - I won't call them prejudices - are a part of romantic attraction and what people may seek in a partner. But it doesn't sound as if Julie Peterson wants a partner, just a few ccs from an unseen donor. And I wonder if someone with such exacting criteria in the bloodlines and mere physical appearance of a child really knows who and what children are and what really makes us love them.

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Simon SaysSimon Says NPR's Scott Simon Shares His Take On Events Large And Small