• Subscribe to Crisis

  • “Reprotech” Ushers in a New Eugenic Age

    by Mark D. Oshinskie

    IVF pic

    Following the devaluation of babies in the developed world 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. Yet, many do not know what occurs in IVF labs and others do not care, as long as offspring result. The zeitgeist favoring “reprotech” obscures the serious social problems that reproductive technologies both reflects and facilitates.

    For example, the growing demand for IVF is, in large measure, a response to Western cultural changes.  As birth control and abortion became widely available, sex was more reliably separated from procreation and childbearing has been widely postponed. Deferring parenthood into the mid-thirties and beyond worked for some, but has created many fertility clinic users.  Further, aside from delaying child-bearing, contraception enabled serial sexual partners and over ten million new cases of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) each year, which scar reproductive organs and also impair fertility.  IVF is often used to bypass these obstacles.

    IVF and the Effectuation of the Brave New World
    Such academic commentators as Leon Kass, Francis Fukuyama and Bill McKibben have observed that human genetic engineering, nanotech and robotics will demoralize individuals and damage human community.  They write, for example, of futuristic highly-skilled classical pianists or athletes who know that their parents purchased strong musical or athletic genes for them, and of the existential crises caused regarding the source of,  and credit for, their respective accomplishments.  They observe that democracy will become untenable if some use these technologies to create a master race.  They view these threats to community as prospective, though imminent, as cloning and gene manipulation research continues in earnest.

    These warnings are, at once, an exaggeration and an understatement.  They are an exaggeration because, although genomic research has enabled scientists to identify the effects of many DNA sequences, we are still a while (vagueness deliberate) away from having a clearer sense of which genes influence many other traits.  They are also an exaggeration because many have observed that, to date, gene manipulation efforts reveal that genes cannot often be simply cut and pasted, one for another, especially without causing serious unanticipated effects.

    The authors understate the dangers posed by IVF because, in the interim at least, this reprotech enables efforts to clear these technological hurdles.  It uses the same lab equipment and provides cumulating knowledge, techniques and an oversupply of embryos needed to advance genetic engineering and cloning.  IVF is to genetic engineering and cloning what nuclear power plants are to nuclear weapons proliferation.

    Reprotech’s effects on the aforementioned commentators’ concerns are understated in another, more important way.  The same ethic of reproductive control that animates IVF also allows egg and sperm shopping, genetic screening and embryo selection—or its companions, sex-selection or eugenic abortion.  One may maintain that the embryo is not a person but one cannot dispute that the embryo at seven days tells us much about the person at 27 years. With its multi-embryo production, IVF already enables parents to select between embryos for numerous lifelong traits, including sex and disability.  Despite their backgrounds, sperm and egg shoppers display distinct preferences for gametes from tall, conventionally attractive gamete sellers with much formal education.   These choices are clearly intended and they are not futuristic practices, which may never become available; they occur every day.

    Thus, even if genetic manipulation or cloning never become possible, the eugenic age is already well underway and is accepted by our consumer-sovereign society.  If prospective parents don’t like their unborn’s genes, they can, and often do, end the life.  For example, over 90 percent of fetuses diagnosed with Downs Syndrome are aborted. Not in some futuristic hell, but today, we are ending disability through a medically mediated rendering of Jonathan Swift’s “A Modest Proposal,” by purging the disabled.

    In a society that increasingly and appropriately declines to execute even serial killers, it seems inconsistent to effectively impose prenatal capital punishment/genocide on the disabled.  Consider further the effects of genetic screening on the self-perception of the able-bodied.  How does it feel to know you were born because you met the standards of your parents and a quality control inspector?  In place of unconditional love, reprotech allows the introduction of discrimination with regard to human dignity based on biological, psychological or educational development, or based on health-related criteria.

    Some commentators have suggested that eugenic abortion or embryo selection could be legislatively limited to genes with “life-or-death” diseases. That proposal does not inspire confidence.

    First, who can say that a disabled or a relatively brief life—even one with much suffering—is not worth living?  As John Paul II stated in Evangelium Vitae (1995), “The courage and serenity with which so many of our brothers and sisters suffering from serious disabilities lead their lives when they are shown acceptance and love bears eloquent witness to what gives authentic value to life, and makes it, even in difficult conditions, something precious for them and for others.”

    Most parents will de-select embryos or abort fetuses whose genes suggest they will someday have MS, ALS, breast cancer or Huntington’s.  These conditions seldom kill, or even afflict, the young.  Besides, 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?  Below average intelligence or height?  Even limiting either genetic manipulation or embryo selection for seemingly esthetic purposes seems impossible, given society’s and the law’s strong support for reproductive choice.  And with reproductive choice as the guiding principle, how will we prohibit parthenogenesis, artificial wombs or chimeras?

    The majority of parents allowed to choose between having a fully capable—or perhaps, ultracapable—child, on the one hand, or casting a diffuse vote for an already attenuated democracy on the other, will serve themselves, not the larger group.  As genomic knowledge and embryo selection increase, the pressure to have “perfect” kids will only intensify.  As the number of people with imperfections decreases, society’s acceptance of, and support groups and services for, the imperfect will shrink.  Stanford Law Professor Hank Greely has predicted that, given these competitive pressures, within 50 years, most Americans will be the product of IVF.   While allowing for some incorrect predictions in individual cases, genetic screening will cause the social stratification and personal alienation that the commentators fear, even without the genetic manipulation they foresee.

    All we have to do to advance this dystopia is more of what is already done: embrace reprotech, screen gametes/embryos and use/implant those with the traits the parents want.  Even if we could agree on and proscribe what constituted abuses of these practices, regulation of these micro-scale technologies, which involve high stakes to their demanding consumers and the clinics that compete for their business, and which occur behind closed doors in hundreds of office parks, is impracticable.

    Distributive Concerns
    On a population-wide basis, American medicine is better at generating revenue than it is at advancing health.  Americans spend twice as much per capita on medical care as does any other nation and America ranks twenty seventh in life expectancy, just slightly ahead of Cuba.

    Medical insurance funds hundreds of billions of medically unnecessary treatments. We routinely test for conditions that are only remotely possible.  One in six adults takes psychoactive drugs, largely because ordinary sadness is now considered a disease.  Millions use insurance subsidies for erectile dysfunction medications.

    IVF fits squarely within this model of providing elective treatments for the affluent, while the poor do without basic goods and services, and medical care, in the United States and, especially, abroad.  The typical IVF cycle costs $12,000 and multiple cycles are common.  Insurance coverage for IVF is legislatively mandated in 15 of the most populous states.  By itself, IVF adds over 5 percent to medical insurance premiums. The insurance cost of IVF grows sharply when the inflated costs of post-natal care for IVF offspring are considered.  A recent study concluded that twins cost six times ($105,000) and triplets twenty times ($400,000) more than do single babies. Multiple births have increased six-fold because IVF often involves the implantation of multiple embryos.  In a lengthy article in the  New York Times Magazine entitled “The Two Minus One Pregnancy” (2012), we learn that multiples are often reduced in number, in utero, by injections of potassium chloride into the hearts of the “excess,” seemingly weaker, fetuses. While the fertility industry gains an increasing share of insurance dollars, public health/environmental protection measures that would benefit all people are seriously underfunded in relation to the threats presented.

    In addition to misallocating resources, IVF facilitates human exploitation.  Like many commercial processes, it allows child-bearing to be outsourced to low income surrogates in the US and abroad.  Instead of mothers producing their own eggs, eggs are harvested from well-pedigreed college students, who risk their health and deplete a significant part of their egg supply, which may endanger their own fertility and accelerate menopause and which enables what the progressive commentator Andrew Kimbrell called “technological adultery.”

    Reprotech’s Impact on Self-Perception
    Apart from creating a genetically privileged class, reprotech already affects the perception of other beings and basic kinship or solidarity.  Despite vast demographic, ideological and personality differences, until about thirty years ago, humans shared a common, mysterious origin in the union of a woman and a man.  This is no longer universally the case.  In its place, reprotech, immensely profitable in a slow growth economy, applies a corporate model, not only in its technical practices, but in its advertising and competition for market share.

    Increasingly, as life is manufactured and sold, it becomes less awesome and more like other possessions.

    While reprotech is the ultimate reductionist activity—sperm plus egg plus gestation equals human—it cannot be reduced into its component parts; like all things, we must take its benefit and harm as a unitary whole.  As children have become products of subjective desires and labs, life has been radically altered in ways unreported by the TV news.  Relativism and utilitarianism have taken firm hold.  God has been removed from most discourse. Churches of all denominations are nearly empty.  Marriage is postponed and eschewed and is increasingly separated from childbearing and raising; more adults live alone and more children live with one parent than ever.  A hook-up culture has supplanted the mutual affection and acceptance of courtship.

    The perception and treatment of children have also changed: instead of being born in the fullness of time, many are prenatally frozen or their births are scheduled, they are formula-fed, placed in day care, over-managed and overscheduled.  Social scientists report numerous indicia of sharply diminishing social cohesion since the 1970s.  Have contraception, abortion and reprotech singlehandedly caused each of these changes?  No, but they fit squarely within a cultural context that makes everything, even human life, bend to individual sovereignty, engineering principles and ultimately, commerce.  As Waclav Havel wrote, “The tragedy of modern man is not that he knows less and less about the meaning of his life but that it bothers him less and less.”

    Fundamentally, reprotech places the interests of the individual above those of the community.  Using it is like building one’s home on the beach at Normandy or in Yosemite Valley. It pleases the consumer and their family and friends.  But it costs the culture something more precious and universal, namely the notion of the sacred and the continuation of a society where genetic advantage cannot be purchased.  Reprotech has generated many offspring. But with its effects on human perception and community, reprotech users should not expect the emerging world to resemble the one their parents grew up in, or be much of a place to raise children.

    The views expressed by the authors and editorial staff are not necessarily the views of
    Sophia Institute, Holy Spirit College, or the Thomas More College of Liberal Arts.

    Subscribe to Crisis

    (It's Free)

    Go to Crisis homepage

    • mary jo anderson

      Very sobering. Thank you for an enlightening article.

    • Michael Shaw

      O Brave New World!

    • lifeknight

      Excellent insight into the perceived consequences of the “right” to have children. Hitler would be proud of our technological advances.

      • smokes

        Margaret Sanger and the Rockefellers are dancin’ in the streets.

    • Objectivetruth

      I have a tough time getting past the fact that IVF is nothing more than mass murder in a Petri dish. Looking at the picture above the article there appears to be seven embryos. Two will get the lucky lottery ticket and selected for implantation. The other five will either be discarded or frozen, with probably no chance ever of implantation. So the fact is, FIVE HUMANS WILL BE KILLED OFF! This is evil and satanic, nothing less.

      • Ford Oxaal

        Angels are brilliant, and Satan the most brilliant. They have perfect recall going back to the beginning of creation. They can and do watch actions of humans in minute detail and though they cannot read the mind or force the will, they can prompt ideas and effect much. Next to the original lie in the Garden of Eden, perhaps Satan’s second greatest lie, which took root centuries ago, is “salvation through faith alone — good works avail nothing”. The fruit of this blatant, yet brilliant anti-christian lie, was the steady erosion of devotion to Mary and motherhood, and the ultimate consequential annihilation of Christendom in the 20th century. Take away the respect of motherhood and it’s game over. Christendom was then replaced with government by statistics and science, in other words, rule by half-truth. Now, this beast is feeding on hundreds of millions of destroyed mothers and their offspring (abortion in China to the tune of hundreds of millions — tens of millions in this country — wrecking lives, leaving lifelong scars), as we breed a world of motherless human draft animals who worship at the altar of convenience and appetite. This, then, spirals the whole human race downward. With the help of Satan and his minions, the depths of human depravity are sounded. And these depths are moving West. If you want a taste of things to come, read about the cruelty of the Saddam Hussein ‘family’, and imagine what the likes of them would do with unlimited material power — genetic tortures, genetic horrors, genetic sport, medical ‘delights’, etc. We are all, regardless of religious orientation, well advised to devoutly meditate on motherhood for fifteen minutes daily, by saying the meditative prayer of the Rosary.

        • tamsin

          Saint Michael the Archangel, defend us in battle, be our protection against the wickedness and snares of the devil.

          • Ford Oxaal

            The St. Michael prayer is so important. It used to be said after every Mass — now only after the extraordinary form. It is a prayer children should learn to love.

        • Vinnie

          “The spiritual battle is here. Pick a side.” Agree, that’s why I’m done with the political battles.

          • Ford Oxaal

            I think we are on the same page. A lot of time is wasted getting all hot and bothered by the pundits — who make a living getting people all hot and bothered — and demonizing the other side. It is hard to pray for someone who has been demonized — another win for Satan. And it is hard to pray with the media blasting all the time. Meanwhile prayer is the neutron bomb of the good guys.

            • Objectivetruth

              Agreed…..

        • Gilbert Jacobi

          I heartily concur with your opinion on the damage the “by faith alone” doctrine has done. I can’t connect the dots between this and the erosion of devotion to Mary and motherhood, however. Would you mind guiding me through it?

          • Ford Oxaal

            Yes, that is a stretch. But not to the devil. The brilliant lie, sola fide, was a direct attack on the Sacrament of Baptism — no more ex operere operato (Protestantism reduces Christianity to a mere philosophy, a lifestyle). Now then, sola scriptura gains traction, (no need for magic Catholic “sacraments”). But precious little is said about Mary in Sacred Scripture — “full of grace” the angel said — even before Christ was incarnate!!! — is not enough wordiness to convince the Protestants of Mary’s rightful place in the pantheon of Saints. The fact is, devotion to Mary rests more on Sacred Tradition, one of the pieces jettisoned by the Protestants. So over time, Protestant devotion to Mary all but ceased. Without devotion to Mary, Christian motherhood itself is hung out to dry. Now, starting with sola fide, we see the fruits: Satan jeopardizes, if not outright devours, tens of millions of unbaptized souls and their mothers through institutionalized worldwide abortion.

            • Gilbert Jacobi

              Mr. Oxaal,

              Thank you, sir, I see it now. Yes, the devil is quite a flexible fellow.

      • Vinnie

        As mentioned – “IVF is to genetic engineering and cloning what nuclear power plants are to nuclear weapons proliferation.” The other avenue is fodder for embryonic stem cell research.

        • smokes

          Everyone’s making moolah…that’s all that matters.

      • smokes

        If only the other five could vote, the leftist Democratic party would protect them.

    • Steven Jonathan

      There will never be a day when scientists can determine the outcome of a life written on the pages of a human soul. This is the same thinking as Dr. Frankenstein and the early results have already been catastrophic. This dark age is mired up in the false dichotomy of nature vs. nurture- this is scientific mythology- God’s grace, gifts and the cultivation of character surpass all scientific calculations and conjectures by immeasurable multitudes.

      There will be an unimaginable cost to this hubris- we are willing our own orphan status in imitation of the father of lies.

    • AcceptingReality

      My wife and I weren’t able to have children. Love them and would love to have had them…..bet we are happy to bear our disappointment while accepting God’s will by living the moral teachings of the Church. Taking matters into our own hands by IVF would make matters worse.

      • Nash Horne

        Indeed. And obviously each couple’s situation is very different, but not being able to have children of your own could open the avenue to the adoption of orphans.

      • Beth Ann Vosskuhler-Waleski

        Me and hubby don’t have any either and are in our 40s. If God wants us to contribute to the world in other ways than being parents, so be it. I do work with kids a lot: I am a teacher.

    • FernieV

      Just like Bin Laden won the war, which is costing America billions of dollars on a monthly basis, it now seems, after reading your article that Hitler, or Nietzsche if you prefer, has got his way after all…

      • Adam__Baum

        Except it won’t be Hitler who got his way, it’ll be people like David Starr Jordon, Charles Goethe and Margaret Sanger and “Justice” Oliver Wendell Holmes (who legitimized involuntary state sponsored sterilization in Buck v. Bell with the brilliant jurisprudential phrase “three generations of imbeciles are enough”.

        Hitler quoted them in Mein Kampf and the Rockefeller Foundation funded “Doctor” Joseph Mengele.

        Hitler was merely a practitioner of misanthropic philosophers conceived among ruling class elites here.

        http://hnn.us/article/1796

        Welcome to their brave new world.

        • smokes

          Why doesn’t “three generations of imbeciles are enough”.apply to House seats?! The Left don’t mind dem dumb then, do it?

        • msmischief

          there’s a distinction? Remember that the Nazi eugenic sterilization program was actively copied from American ones, and Sanger’s paper printed articles that praised it.

          • smokes

            The “Mother of Planned Parenthood” also addressed a KKK rally.

        • FernieV

          Thank you for the information. I totally agree.

    • tamsin

      Lovely article… except when we use the cost of IVF to argue against treating infertility, we support the premise of those who use the cost of treating disabilities to argue for eliminating embryos with genetic markers for disability. I understand the desire to point out the costs to those who argue costs, but… take care with it.

      • Mark Oshinskie

        Thanks for the positive comment and your admonition.

        I don’t agree that mentioning IVF’s costs means that this point can be logically extended to saying that it makes sense not to spend money on the disabled. (Though I understand that some may so assert). My perspective is based on human dignity, not based on saving money in every way possible. If people are born disabled, they will need care, which costs some money. This is a matter of basic human decency.

        An aside: the type of care each disabled person needs will vary. In some cases, they may cost society less over the span of their lives than will many non-disabled people, or people who become disabled over time. For example, many disabled persons don’t live to old age and receive fewer old age benefits.

        Ultimately, life and public policy should not be not about doing everything as cheaply as possible. They should be about doing the best we can for the people we have with the resources we have. And spending large amounts of quasi-public money, mandated coverage insurance dollars, to create a bunch of lives (and culling out most of them) instead of spending it on the basic needs of people who already exist does not optimally serve the human community.

    • smokes

      Not only are 90% of Downs babies murdered, but the mothers of the 10% born alive are castigated by our Trotskyite elites. What happened to Sarah Palin with threats and disrespect, is all too typical with our modern assault bimbos on the Left.

      • Gilbert Jacobi

        Assault bimbos! Can’t wait to use it on someone!

    • publiusnj

      These techniques are one more step in radically cutting off individuals from any familial identity. Indeed any identity that he has not purchased in our consumer culture or been assigned by an all powerful state.

      Ever listen to the Local News? “Families” of victims or of perpetrators when interviewed often have a variety of names within the same “household unit.” Say, perpetrator Tommy Jones’s mother, Ms. Bridget Smith and his sister Trudy Green are interviewed. How’d that happen? Bridget had lain down with a Mr. Jones and a Mr. Green, neither of whom was married to Bridget, the “head of the household” for tax purposes. What is the name of such a household. Are they the Smith, Jones or Green family? Maybe even the Smith- Jones-Green family (hyphenation gets real complicated as people have more sexual partners). Why do we even use patronymics anymore, except where the father is married to the mother? Why would any boy take pride in being a “Clinton” or a “DeBlasio” or a ____ (pick a name), when the person who bequeathed him the name was gone 2 months before or after the boy was born? We are really getting far away from the concept that there are intermediary institutions between us and an all powerful state.

    • OneleggedTarzan

      I read an article the other day by a woman who was one of three implants, the other two being killed. Her parents couldn’t understand why she mourned so over her dead siblings.

      I think the generation produced by these misguided fools will suffer, but also they will rebel.

    • Objectivetruth

      Go to anonymousus.org, it’s a website created by an adult conceived by IVF for children of IVF, donors to go post their stories and feelings. The stories are very heartbreaking, showing the psychological turmoil they go through once they are adults. Here’s one of their stories:

      “I don’t agree with the way I was born. I really don’t.

      I was 18 when my mother told me that my father wasn’t actually my dad. I was filling out medical information for college when the website asked for my father’s medical history. I looked to my mom for guidance when she told just to not fill it out and stop. That’s when she told me. My sister, my mom, and I were all related, but not to my father. Yes, it was a giant shock, but at first it didn’t hit me. Later that evening, I couldn’t look at my father again the same way. The man who I had spent 18 years believing was my dad, wasn’t anymore. I’ll admit that later that night as I lay in bed I googled what I am and what this was. I will openly admit that I cried myself to sleep that night.

      Ever since that night I’ve struggled with this. There isn’t a day that goes by where I don’t think about it. I’ll look at other people’s families and see the way they all work together and how they all look alike. And I can’t do it. And then it all made sense to me. Like why my parents waited six years to have children. Why only once someone has told me I look like my dad and every other time like my mom or my sister.

      After my mom told me what I was she said, “All it changes is that we don’t know your medical history. Nothing else.”
      I can’t tell you how wrong she was.

      College is tough. Everyone asks me about my family. They’ll ask, “How many siblings do you have?”
      And I have to reply one. But I don’t know actually how many I do have.
      Dad’s weekend was really hard on me too. Seeing so many people who look so much like their dads while mine (who actually couldn’t attend) was not actually my dad.

      I’m not related to one half of my family. I don’t actually know how many brothers or sisters I have. I don’t know if I’m an aunt yet. I could have nieces and nephews. I have an entire half of my family that I don’t know. I have another grandma. But I don’t know if she’s passed away. My half-siblings could have passed away too. But, I won’t know what their life was and how they contributed to our world. I want to know these people. I want to know about their lives. I want to see the half of me in them. I want to know what my father looks like so I can see where I came from.

      There are too many negative things that happen with Donor children. And its not an easy thing to cope with. Some of us feel like lab rats. Most of us wish our parents had rather adopted. I understand why people use this method of conceiving, but I don’t agree with it. The children who are conceived from this suffer too much. And its not an easy thing to just “get over.”

      I don’t believe in the way I was conceived. I really don’t. ”

      • Gilbert Jacobi

        Thanks for this link. This site features very revealing stories, that bring out problems these poor people have to deal with that are never reported elsewhere.

    • Objectivetruth

      IVF slippery slope, this was in the news over the last week:

      http://www.sltrib.com/sltrib/news/57372964-78/lippert-family-says-moore.html.csp

    • Pingback: Athletes will know their parents bought athletic genes for them

    • Pingback: Best Translation of St. Augustine’s ‘Confessions’ - Big Pulpit.com