Human Exceptionalism

New Eugenics: Selecting Embryos for Eye and Hair Color

Remember when we were told that IVF, coupled with pre-implantation genetic diagnosis (PGD), would only be used to prevent serious genetic health maladies from being passed to the next generation? That was never true, of course. The intent was to get people to accept the principle that parents should be able to design their children, and that kind of thing is best promoted via the example of serious illness–just as in assisted suicide.

But anyone who thought such restrictions were ever intended to–or would–remain in place other than as a temporary political expedient, please contact me so I can sell you a bridge known as the Golden Gate.

Predictably, once it was widely accepted that parents should be able to decide not only to have children via IVF fertility treatments, but to decide which they want and don’t want, well why restrict the right to reject unwanted embryos to those with genetic illnesses? After all, cosmetics often matter to a person’s success in the world. And who wants a child one doesn’t find attractive? So why not toss embryos because they will have dark skin or the wrong color eyes to match with the house’s decor?

But Wesley, no one would be that shallow about their own children! Oh no? From the story:

A US clinic has sparked controversy by offering would-be parents the chance to select traits like the eye and hair colour of their offspring. The LA Fertility Institutes run by Dr Jeff Steinberg, a pioneer of IVF in the 1970s, expects a trait-selected baby to be born next year.

His clinic also offers sex selection…

This involves testing a cell taken from a very early embryo before it is put into the mother’s womb. Doctors then select an embryo free from rogue genes–or in this case an embryo with the desired physical traits such as blonde hair and blue eyes–to continue the pregnancy, and discard any others.

Dr Steinberg said couples might seek to use the clinic’s services for both medical and cosmetic reasons. For example, a couple might want to have a baby with a darker complexion to help guard against a skin cancer if they already had a child who had developed a melanoma. But others might just want a boy with blonde hair.

So much for unconditional love of children.

We are constantly told that the right of a woman to reproduce is absolute, including getting pregnant, aborting if the pregnancy is ever unwanted, and now, genetically engineering progeny to order. But no “right” is absolute. The time has long since past to put some regulatory controls over the wild, wild west of IVF.

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