Tailoring kids hurts society

By  Nicole Lau, Youth Speak News
  • September 12, 2008

Bioethics. What does it matter? What does it mean to live in a generation where people are born through assisted reproductive technologies, where the sperm and the egg are artificially fused instead of being joined through the natural union of a man and a woman?

Well, that was what I was wondering. Does this issue affect our generation, and in what way does it affect me? I’ve already been born and I’m not having children at the moment. For many of us, this issue doesn’t seem to have a direct effect. But it hits home on a much larger scale, to that of our peers, our children and our future.

Surely, as Catholics, it would seem that we should just accept people in the final outcome, regardless of their origins. And I’m not suggesting that we don’t. However, Shakespeare once said to love all, trust few, and do harm to no one. And that is my point.

This artificial process does cause harm. Studies of children born through artificial means of conception show that many grow up wanting to know who their biological parents are. But we now see instances of children with three, even five parents: the social ones who raise them and the biological ones who provide genetic material.

What makes many of the fertility centres attractive is the anonymity offered to the donors, the biological parents, which means it is often impossible to find out who your biological parents actually are. The process of life is becoming more and more disjointed and broken, and the societal perspective and value of life diminishes as this occurs.

Reproduction has become an industry, a market. Wealthy people can purchase “designer babies,” buying only the sperm and egg of choice to produce their ideal child. Much of the sperm comes from people with more “desirable” features. The egg is usually taken from college-educated young women, who earn $8,000 per harvest (a young woman can harvest up to five times, earning $40,000 in her child-rearing years). The resulting embryos are inserted into the wombs of women in poorer countries, especially in India. These “wombs for rent” are often the resort of the desperate and poor to provide for their families.

Finally the “product,” the child, is shipped to the social parents in developed countries. The entire process is devoid of consideration for the child. There is something sadly selfish in this attempt to determine the traits of one’s children. The children grow up not only ignorant of their parents’ identity, but also ignorant of, for instance, any half siblings they may have. The sense of connection or roots are lost.

And yet in the end, we love them all. But it is because of this love that we must speak out: it is unethical to ignore the rights of the child. It is hurtful and unfair to the child, and it is contrary to the unconditional love which we should have for children — they should not have to grow up knowing they were engineered, tailored to the tastes of their parents. What if, for some reason, they did not meet up to the parental expectations? What then?

It’s simply unethical and has long-standing consequences for society. In the end, the methods of assisted reproductive technologies really make me wonder. We need to look at children as blessings, not accessories or products. We cannot allow engineering to compromise the value and intrinsic dignity of human life.

(Lau, 20, graduated from University of Toronto with a degree in history and currently works in Washington, D.C.)

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