ART and the Search for Perfectionism: On Selecting Gender, Genes, and Gametes
Journal Gender, Race & Justice, Vol. 9, pp. 241-272, 2005
32 Pages Posted: 16 Jul 2009
Date Written: June 18, 2005
This article surveys the current state of assisted reproductive technologies (ART), reviewing the existing and emerging technologies that enable parents to peer into their offspring’s genome long before the embryo has attached itself to the uterine wall. Recent developments have ushered in an era of geneticization of assisted conception. The in vitro fertilization of yesteryear that seemed such a dramatic departure from natural conception today appears downright quaint for its simple and random mixing of sperm and egg. Current practices leave much less to chance, employing precise instruments to inject the sperm directly into the egg, with the resulting embryo dissected to reveal the potential child’s entire genetic future. The prospect of such lifestyle foreshadowing compels reflection on the merits of the enabling machinery.
Examined herein are the reasons offered by prospective parents for using preimplantation genetic diagnosis (PGD) to inspect the genetic make-up of their children at the earliest stages. Two rationales dominate – selection of embryos to avoid transmissions of serious illness, and selection based on gender to satisfy parental longings. At first blush, selecting embryos to produce healthy children, or to achieve family balancing may strike the liberal mind as justifiable. But a deeper inspection of the practice yields a more nuanced response, one that requires greater reflection about the nature of human disability and the realm of acceptable parental preference.
Finally, the article marshals the existing technologies and ponders the questions that inevitably and naturally follow. Do advances in ART signal a dooming of the human species in which children are engineered to satisfy the narcissistic longing of their parents, or will parents take up the technologies responsibly so as to maximize the well-being of their offspring‘ Does ART invite and encourage a search for perfection or do they merely provide a level playing field for prospective parents who lack the natural ability to produce healthy children‘ Opinions and emotions run strong on all sides of the debate, and are discussed throughout.
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