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The Grayest Generation


I gave a paper in D.C. last week on the real war against women, the war against women’s fertility. The day after my talk, a man in the audience forwarded this to me. “How Older Parenthood Will Upend American Society” is from The New Republic, hardly a stooge of the Bishops’ Conference.

“The scary consequences of the grayest generation” is the subtitle. As of 2010, the average age of a first-time mother is 25.4, as opposed to 21.5 back in 1970. That means a lot of women are older, much older, than the average. So, what are some of the consequences?

  • The risk of birth defects associated with Artificial Reproductive Technology is larger than people realize.

An article in the New England Journal of Medicine found that 8.3 percent of children born with the help of ART had defects, whereas, of those born without it, only 5.8 percent had defects. 

  • Advanced age of the mother increases the likelihood of trisomy:

The risk that a pregnancy will yield a trisomy rises from 2–3 percent when a woman is in her twenties to 30 percent when a woman is in her forties. 

In a trisomy, a third chromosome inserts itself into one of the 23 pairs that most of us carry, so that a child’s cells carry 47 instead of 46 chromosomes. The most notorious trisomy is Down syndrome. There are two other common ones: Patau syndrome, which gives children cleft palates, mental retardation, and an 80 percent likelihood of dying in their first year; and Edwards syndrome, which features oddly shaped heads, clenched hands, and slow growth. Half of all Edwards syndrome babies die in the first week of life.

  • And, advanced age of the father has risks associated with it. As men age, their DNA does not replicate as precisely. Increased risks of both autism and schizophrenia have been associated with advanced paternal age.

Researchers in Iceland, using radically more powerful ways of looking at genomes, established that men pass on more de novo — that is, non-inherited and spontaneously occurring genetic mutations to their children as they get older. In the scientists’ study, published in Nature, they concluded that the number of genetic mutations that can be acquired from a father increases by two every year of his life, and doubles every 16, so that a 36-year-old man is twice as likely as a 20-year-old to bequeath de novo mutations to his children.

We are experimenting on children. We have no idea of the full impact of artificial reproductive technology or advanced parental age on our children. We want to believe that it is possible to delay conception until women are “ready” for children. Delayed childbirth was the goal of the radical feminists. We have achieved that goal, and we are doing almost anything to avoid looking at the data showing the very real problems with it. As society lurches from one disaster to the next, I think it is about time we rethink some of our premises. Was this “having it all” thing really worth what we are paying for it? And do we really have the right to make kids pay for it?

Just asking. 

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