The Higher They are The Harder They Fall

by The Center for Bioethics and Culture on May 12, 2011

By Jennifer Lahl, CBC President

Pacific Reproductive Center (PRC) of Southern California (AKA, the reproductive tourist capital of the world) has just announced the opening of an on-site laboratory with breakthrough technology that has the ability to analyze all 46 chromosomes (23 from the mother and 23 from the father) of a human embryo within 24 hours. It is billed as “fresh hope for would-be moms at risk of miscarriages and birth defects.”

Make no mistake, this breakthrough technology is nothing but a modern day search and destroy method of screening out “defective” human embryos. In the early 20th century, when the infamous Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes declared, “Three generations of imbeciles are enough,” we called this eugenics. With this breakthrough technology, embryos are created in the lab and then tested and screened. Within 24 hours, parents will be told which embryos are the “good” embryos that can be implanted or frozen for later use and which are the “bad” embryos that will be discarded.

This is the fresh hope offered would-be moms? This is the new face of medicine and technology? The physician as healer is now choosing which lives created will live and which ones will be destroyed.

And you can imagine, this technology will be used by others as well. Those who are not at risk but just want to maximize their chances of having the child of their dreams. How tempting will it be to take a look at those 46 chromosomes and find out so much more? Companies like 23andMe represent just one example of taking information gleaned from the human genome and using it for myriad reasons. With DIY home kits for only $99.00, they offer everything from genetic risk factors for up to 97 diseases, monthly DNA discovery reports, and insights into traits such as baldness or muscle performance. This may seem like benign information for information sake, but how soon will the “good” embryo be not only disease free, but the one with the hair and eye color of the parents’ choice, with the athletic ability and intellectual heft of the parents’ desire?

PRC celebrates this overnight solution as a means of cost-savings (why waste money on a pregnancy that will only be terminated?!?), decreased anxiety for parents who no longer have to endure long waits for test results, and increased chances of successful pregnancies. This “breakthrough” supports their long-term “commitment to giving couples the best chances of having healthy babies.”

One has to wonder if this Brave New World will soon demand all babies be made in the laboratory if society’s goal is to have only healthy babies born, and the smartest and prettiest babies too. Why not?

Why not? Because it robs us of our dignity when we take baby making into our human hands. It robs children of their dignity when their lives become chiefly the products of our imagination and technology. No matter how high we build this tower, God will still look down on us, and we will fall.

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