The Reproductive Technology Quagmire
Professor Hank Greely comments on the possible effects of in vitro fertilization on social stratification for The American Thinker.
Following Western cultures’ devaluation of babies in the 1970s and 80s, babies became scarce and, consequently, desirable once again. Now, any means used to make babies is seen as good, as long as pregnancy occurs at a convenient time.
Some cannot conceive naturally. The prevailing view is that those who cannot do so should have free access to such reproductive technologies as in vitro fertilization (“IVF”) or the purchase of gametes, i.e., sperm and eggs. Reproductive technology has become a fait accompli with a large, affluent and profitable constituency and it receives inflationary insurance subsidies. Yet, reproductive technology both reflects and facilitates serious problems.
Further, as many have observed, the lines between disease and trait or cure and enhancement are quite blurry. What will be the legislative status of embryos that have genes for schizophrenia? Deafness? Depression? Obesity? Below average intelligence or height? As the number of people with imperfections decreases, society’s acceptance of, and support groups and services for, the imperfect will shrink and the pressure to have “perfect” kids will intensify. Stanford Law Professor Hank Greely has predicted that, given these competitive pressures, within 50 years, 50% of Americans will be the product of IVF. Thus, genetic screening could cause the social stratification and personal alienation that the commentators fear, even without the genetic manipulation they foresee.