Sunday, December 16, 2012

Bespoke Babies

A recent article on Slate chronicles one woman’s quest to become a “girl-mommy” using preimplantation genetic diagnosis (PGD). Ms. Simpson (a pseudonym) already had three sons, and after almost four years and $40,000, she was able to use PGD to give birth to a girl. Said Ms. Simpson, “She was worth every cent. Better than a new car, or a kitchen reno.”

 “Preimplantation genetic diagnosis” was originally designed to identify genetic diseases or chromosomal disorders, such as cystic fibrosis and sickle-cell anemia, in embryos created through in vitro fertilization (IVF) before they are implanted in the woman’s uterus. IVF is designed to initiate a pregnancy, while PGD is used to sort and choose preferable embryos before pregnancy.

Now, though, enterprising fertility doctors have found a way to maximize the utility of this technology by marketing it to individuals seeking to determine the sex of their child. The use of PGD for gender selection has become a lucrative practice for American physicians, as it is illegal to use it for that reason in Australia, the U.K., and Canada.

Technological advancements in science are sprinting past our laws and cultural norms. The appeal of PGD is that it subjugates reality to humanity’s desires, striving to eliminate the chronological distance between want and satisfaction. Gender selection of your child is reduced to just another consumer decision, similar to selecting a car or choosing the color of the living room carpet. Genetic engineering is merely convenient “family balancing.”

As science sprints past law, few stop to consider whether PGD is “good.” To the secular mind, science’s ability to determine gender is a testament to individual freedom. After all, more choices must intuitively mean more freedom. But as our choices have multiplied, the ethical, societal, and religious guardrails have been destroyed. We are where the Israelites were in Judges when “everyone did as he saw fit.” Limitless freedom, however, is unsustainable, as the book of Proverbs forewarns that the eyes of man are never satisfied, and Machiavelli instructs that men desire everything but cannot attain everything.

One woman in the Slate piece describes her reason for wanting a girl by saying, “I’m not into sports. I’m not into violent games. I’m not into a lot of things boys represent and do.” Would she be disappointed if her daughter exhibited behavior generally associated with a tomboy? After a child is born there is no return policy (as of yet) should Ms. Simpson be subject to the personal inconvenience of having to raise a daughter who does want to play sports. In buying a daughter she thought she was purchasing traditional gender-identified experiences.

Another issue that progressives fail to consider with PGD is that each generation’s attempts at genetic engineering constitute the forced exercise of that generation’s view of what is good upon the succeeding generation. One generation’s abuse of freedom severely constrains the freedom of the next. As C.S. Lewis wrote in The Abolition of Man, “For the power of Man to make himself what he pleases means . . . the power of some men to make other men what they please.”

The real problem with PGD is found at a deeper root than even selfishness, consumerism, or man’s attempt to conquer nature. It is found in the concept of image. Man once saw himself reflecting the image of God: “God created man in His own image, in the image of God he created him.”

A proper concept of man looks outward and views him as reflecting the eternal. The secular mind has turned its gaze inward to consider humanity as a malleable product. Man created in the image of man has significantly less inherent value than man created in God’s image.

As technology advances, our desire to be like gods will not abate. Eden should have taught us that while we thought we were laying hands on the forbidden fruit, it was really laying hands on us.

Joseph A. Kohm, Jr. is an attorney residing in Virginia Beach, Virginia.


Jasmeet Sidhu, “How To Buy a Daughter

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