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Standing 5-foot-8-inches, and weighing in at 130 pounds, Santa Cruz resident Raquel Cool hardly stands out in a crowd—but she’s a hot commodity if you’re in the market for human ova. The 27-year-old, college-educated, trilingual triathlete of Chinese-American descent, who was born and raised in Panama, is currently making a living by donating her eggs to couples that cannot conceive by natural means.

Considered by some to be an altruist and by others to be little more than a pawn in a multi-billion dollar industry—the projected gross revenue of the U.S. fertility industry in 2013 is $4.26 billion according to Harper’s Index—Cool is one of thousands of women across the country that put the human egg trade in motion. But her reasons for doing so are much more pragmatic than you might guess.

Having grown up in a tri-cultural military household, which moved around every few years, Cool’s understanding of what a family is has always gone beyond genetic makeup. “[A child] doesn’t necessarily have to be born of me to be my family,” says Cool, who has dreamt of...