It's all over the news: a lesbian couple used a sperm bank to create their baby girl and now they're suing, because the bank used sperm vial 330 (from a black man) when they had selected sperm vial 380 (from a white man). They love their daughter, but they're claiming they've somehow been damaged by the mix up.
One thing's for sure, this legal wrangle should have been conducted privately, because even if the couple is right to hold the sperm bank accountable for their error (should sperm banks really be less accountable than Best Buy for flubbing up orders?), their daughter may be harmed when one day she finds out about her parents' dissatisfaction with her race. The parents and the sperm bank should have reached a discreet settlement. Aside from that, is there any problem here?
There are those who condemn this couple for having any racial preference at all. But why? Race enters into people's attractions, like hair color or body type or other superficial features do. Your attractions at the romantic level probably have some bearing on which children you find attractive. (Hey, don't pretend you find all children equally cute and lovable! You don't.) Picking white donor 380 sounds more racist, but is it really more racist than marrying white guy John Doe, knowing and welcoming the fact that the two of you will have white children? People condemning the couple for caring about the race of their sperm donor ought to have to publicize a list of people they've dated and 'fess up to how racially selective they've been! It is not entirely different.
Another unfair accusation is that the lesbian couple wanted a "bespoke" baby, as all sperm bank clients supposedly do. Clients at sperm bank do have the option of choosing a donor who's extra smart, athletic, good-looking etc., and so this looks very designer-baby-ish. But you have to put your feet in the shoes of the clients for a moment. Fertile male-female couples narrow down the type of child they'll have enormously, by choosing each other. So they can seem completely open to the unbidden, in a Michael Sandel-approved fashion. A lesbian couple, by contrast, has vastly less control. Should we really expect them to be, unlike the rest of us, open to having a child with absolutely any father in the universe? It's true that sperm bank clients often gain control by choosing a smart, handsome whatever-race father, but I suspect this is in some respects fortuitous. What they want is really just control over the way they reproduce, and the only form of control on offer is optimizing the sperm donor.
So, allegations of racism and wanting a "bespoke" baby: dismissed. I don't think the couple's choices are objectionable. However, there is something unfortunate here. Ordinary reproduction with a partner has a tendency to make us exclaim, when a child is born, "He's perfect!" or "She's perfect!" You have to wonder if this baby has been received with that much joy and appreciation, given the lawsuit. Are babies more vulnerable to parental rejection and dissatisfaction when the gametes are bought at a sperm (or egg) bank? The lawsuit (regardless of its merits) makes you think "maybe".