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There’s something funny about the U.S. market for eggs. No, not the kind that spring from chickens and go into making pancakes, but those that come from humans and go into making babies. These eggs – tiny bundles of reproductive DNA – are produced by young women at the peak of their fertility. They are sold in the United States for anywhere between $5,000 and $50,000. And they exist in an Alice in Wonderland world of explicit denial, where prices are capped far below their open-market value and even the most expensive transactions are classified, universally, as “donations.”

The market for human eggs is a fairly recent development, prodded into existence by the explosive growth of in vitro fertilization (IVF) technologies in the 1990s and 2000s. Once it became possible — and then eventually commonplace — to create babies conceived outside the womb, it quickly also became possible to build those babies from other parties’ genes. By the mid-1990s, couples who suffered from male infertility, along with a growing numbers of lesbian couples and single women, were...