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October 16, 1987

'Ticking Clocks' and Changing Mores

JAMA. 1987;258(15):2025. doi:10.1001/jama.1987.03400150015004

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IN A RECENT BEST-SELLER, The Handmaid's Tale (Atwood M, New York, Simon & Schuster Inc Publishers, 1986), surrogate motherhood was taken to a chilling conclusion—a caste of women whose sole function was to make their wombs available for impregnation by ruling-class men.

A medical ethicist and a sociologist have completed a seven-year study of what may be a feminist reversal on this tale—women who seek out a sperm donor in order to have a child before their "biological clocks" cease ticking.

Daniel Wikler, PhD, professor of philosophy at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, discovered this practice when his sister, Norma Wikler, PhD, professor of sociology at the University of California, Santa Cruz, was interviewing career women about their decisions on childbearing. One woman admitted she had inseminated herself because she was neither married nor involved in a serious relationship, but wished to have a child.

Intrigued, the Wiklers sought out