Science & Tech

Creating Disposable Babies — Yes We Can, but Should We?

A doctor performs an in-vitro fertilization procedure in 2010. (Kacper Pempel/Reuters)
A moral dilemma is being ignored as an under-regulated industry plays with the building blocks of life.

Shocking headlines about three couples who discovered that the babies implanted in them at a fertility clinic were not their own are drawing attention again to an area of medicine operating in some troubling gray areas of the law.

When federal officials hesitated recently to push forward an in vitro fertilization program impacting veterans, the concerns of pro-life groups such as Students for Life of America were blamed for slowing down the process. The issue however, was not whether we want people to create families (we’re the pro-life movement — we love babies) but whether creating disposable children, a common event with IVF, is a good idea.

As the Washington Post notes, people looking for almost unregulated IVF go to Cyprus, the United Arab Emirates — and the United States.

A story headlined “From sex selection to surrogates, American IVF clinics provide services outlawed elsewhere” shared a grim report: “While many countries have moved in recent years to impose boundaries on assisted reproduction, the U.S. fertility industry remains largely unregulated and routinely offers services outlawed elsewhere. As a result, the United States has emerged as a popular destination for IVF patients from around the world seeking controversial services — not just sex selection, but commercial surrogacy, anonymous sperm donation and screening for physical characteristics such as eye color.”

This wild, wild west of science is well known to families dealing with rare diseases that are often used to argue for screening preborn life to make sure that they are never born. In my own family, two of my four children have cystic fibrosis, a genetic disease impacting the lungs and digestive system, requiring daily treatment and diligence to ensure enough calories are consumed and to keep fragile lungs clear.

Living with this as a family is difficult but worthwhile, teaching us to work together and to value each other and every day. But Jen Gann, the parenting editor of New York, who wrote a cover story about her toddler Dudley who also has CF, expresses the throwaway culture as she writes about her wrongful-birth suit and her desire for the chance to have ended his life.

She would have aborted her child had she known. Gann writes about her “paradox,” adding, “(W)hat does it mean to fight for someone when what you’re fighting for is a missed chance at that person’s not existing?”

In the context in which we allow people to live if we are satisfied with all their characteristics, society moves away from children as a unique gift, deserving of our acceptance, care, and love to a commodity, available for purchase. And this is happening for all kinds of reasons.

The National Institutes of Health, in a report on preimplantation genetic diagnosis (PGD), noted that PGD causes concern for all kinds of people. PGD is a fancy name for testing that determines which child lives and which child dies. Reasons for this testing can include having a child with the intent to use their genetic materials for someone else, identifying a preborn baby’s sex, or screening embryos for genetic conditions to decide which to implant and which to destroy. Researchers noted, “Currently, there are no clear professional guidelines specifically related to using PGD for the benefit of an existing person. The legal position is developing, and public opinion is not well known.”

I’ve often wondered what it says to a child with a condition like CF, when they find out that their parents used PGD to end the life of a sibling for having the same condition. Wouldn’t that child wonder if they would be alive if the parents had known about them?

Our technology has moved past our morality and ethics without much conversation. In such an environment, children become more of a status symbol, and the abortion mentality infiltrates the process of birth with the message that those perceived as less than perfect should not live. People argue for abortion as a preemptive strike against suffering, as though hard times should be avoided rather than overcome.

In fact, children perceived as not what the parents ordered can even be turned away.

A recent survey in the Journal of Assisted Reproduction and Genetics found that 73 percent of U.S. fertility clinics would screen for the sex of a child, and often not for health issues, leading to the disposal of children of the “wrong” sex. And we know that people are using this technique.

Students for Life of America did a poll earlier this year to really understand how Millennials view abortion, Planned Parenthood, and federal funding. Interestingly, it was the use of abortion as a tool for sex selection that really horrified them, leading 54 percent to say they oppose Roe v. Wade and Doe v. Bolton for allowing that reality.

A moral dilemma is being ignored as an under-regulated industry plays with the building blocks of life. Our nation is avoiding hard conversations about how creating disposable children harms the children we “allow” to live by teaching them they are expendable. We cannot tell children we love them unconditionally when we shopped for the perfect child and disposed of those that didn’t measure up.

Kristan Hawkins is president of Students for Life of America, which serves more than 1,200 chapters on college and high-school campuses in all 50 states.

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