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Tuesday, December 14, 2004

Designer Babies 

On the front page of the Washington Post online this morning was a story about how a growing number of American parents are using IVF techniques to select the gender of their babies. I'm not sure how I feel about this one - I mean, it seems a rather harmless effect (even if you end up with this becoming mainstream in a place like China where they would all only want boys, that won't last long).

Most people's reaction (including my own) is to immediately question the ethics of a practice. Ethics are a funny thing though, in cases like this you really have to think about line-drawing, which always makes me uncomfortable.
"The use of a technology to fulfill parental desires is viewed as vain, capricious and frivolous."
This may be, but it is no basis for a legal decision about ethics. For all the Puritanical bluster about such things, people are allowed to be vain; and, to be fair, the entire American economy is built on frivolousness.

Then there are those who say that they would terminate (i.e., abort) pregnancy if they got a result they didn't want. Ugly? Yes. Unethical? Probably. Would they do the same thing in the case of a 'natural' pregnancy? Most likely - someone who's willing to abort an IVF pregnancy will be willing to abort a 'natural' one for similar reasons.

A third argument against sex selection is that it will place undue burdens of expectation on the resulting kids: that if daddy wants to have an athlete son, and selects a boy baby, who then turns out not to like sports, he'll be disappointed and take it out on his son, etc. Blah, blah, blah. You know what? My parents wanted an athletic, heterosexual son who'd go to medical/law/business school and make shitloads of money. They got a geeky queer son who does not play well with others and isn't sure what he wants to do, except that it isn't gonna pay well. Do they nag me constantly? Yes. Would they force me to go to med school like they did to go to tennis camp? If they could. Is this situation much different from anyone else's? Not as far as I can see. Parents always have high expectations for their kids, and some kids don't exactly fit the bill. That's the way life goes.

As for whether or not parents should be choosing their kids sex (or eye color, or whatever comes next), I don't know.

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