The Ethics of Artificial Reproductive Technologies

 

Hand-in-glove with recent debates about marriage should be debates about artificial reproductive technologies, or ARTs. These have been largely unregulated in the US, resulting in a wild west of anonymous sperm donation, surrogacy, three party reproduction (egg, sperm and surrogate all from different people) and hundreds of thousands of frozen embryos awaiting….something.

Most Western countries regulate this industry. Though I’m generally against excessive regulation, I think we — as a nation — need to do the soul-searching and caution that the ART industry is seems so uninterested in doing for itself. In most Western countries, anonymous sperm donation is illegal, as is surrogacy. Many regulate the number of embryos that can be transferred per cycle, resulting in far fewer multiple births. These regulations arise from a great many legitimate ethical concerns. Most nations — and some U.S. states, to some degree — but not in America as a whole.

What are the problems with these under-regulated practices? Anonymous sperm donation means that the number of children conceived by sperm donors is unlimited. Donors are often medical students looking for a little extra cash. One young sperm donor passed on a serious genetic heart defect to 9 of his 24 children. Beyond such health concerns, imagine being the child of a sperm donor and wondering if everyone you meet might be your half-sibling. You could never even be sure about people who know their own two biological parents because the father might have been a sperm donor.

Not surprisingly, the incidence of drug and psychological problems is appreciably higher for children conceived in this way, and 50% report feeling sad when they observe biologically connected families. In countries that require that donor identity be attached to sperm, donation plummets. Many also severely limit the number of children that can be produced by any one donor. At a minimum, we should have both of these regulations.

Akin to sperm donation — though on a smaller scale for obvious reasons — is egg donation. Potential parents advertise for eggs at elite college campuses and on Facebook, often with emotional appeals about giving “the gift of life.” What they do not advertise is that stimulated egg production jeopardizes the reproductive health of the donor. And then there’s the commodity angle. It is obvious that parents are looking for high intelligence by seeking genetic material on elite college campuses, but many even seek other traits like ideal height and weight and attractive features. It is the ultimate commodification of children, short of the day (may it never come) when all traits can be specifically chosen. Methinks many purveyors of diversity don’t actually like the reality of diversity.

Surrogacy also carries with it multiple risks. Pregnancy is always a risk, many of these pregnancies result from multiple egg implantation, resulting in the birth of multiple children and far higher risk. In the U.S. and India, it is legal to pay women for surrogacy, so poor women can easily be manipulated. And of course, women’s bodies, hormones and natural human emotions prepare them to want and love the baby they carry, though they sign away all legal rights before this natural process begins. The cannot change their minds as they come to love the baby they carry, who is sometimes their own biological child. Very few women want to repeat the experience and many find it deeply damaging.

We all feel deep sympathy for people who want children and are unable to have them. But in all this ethical morass, the most important questions should always be about the children. People who pursue artificial reproduction are making a decision for a person — the resulting child or children — who will have to live with the consequences of that decision, which often means that they have been deliberately deprived of one or both biological parents. To those who say that the child would rather exist than not exist, I will just say that this is not how we think of children. By that logic, every time we pass up an opportunity to make a child, by rape or any other means, we have deprived a child of existence.

Many here have said in previous discussions that biological parentage doesn’t matter. I agree that the most important aspect of parenting is the emotional connection to the child. The adoptive parents I know are wonderful, and generally both parents and children are deeply grateful that they were brought together, the parents because they longed for children and were unable to have them, and the children because, though their biological parents were unable to care for them for some reason, they cared enough to find fine people who could give them a good, stable home.

But what about children who are deliberately created to be separated from their biological parents? This is a very troubling practice. Buying and selling humans has always been associated with slavery. Remunerative ART is not exactly the same, but it is not entirely different because it often deliberately breaks the parent/child bond that is understood to be so beneficial to children. Doing this risks changing the way we think about children.

Recently, an Australian couple went to Thailand to find a surrogate because surrogacy is illegal in Australia. The surrogate gave birth to twins, one of them with Down’s Syndrome. The parents refused to bring the Down’s child home, and the Thai mother, who wanted the child but had participated in surrogacy because she was poor, could not afford to raise him. Does anyone think for a moment that if that child had emerged from the body of the woman who contracted for his birth that she would have refused to take him home? Having a surrogate bear that child changed the way she thought about him.

All of this enters the philosophical territory about what it means to be human, to know who you are and have a place in the world. A child who is given to adoptive parents may not know the circumstances of his birth, but he surely knows that his birth parents made some kind of human mistake: most likely they were teenagers or college students who got carried away, and no doubt they suffered for that mistake and learned something in the process, as is so nicely illustrated in the movie Juno. But what about the child whose parents deliberately created him because they wanted a child, using a grab bag of genetic material? What does it mean to be deliberately deprived of your biological heritage, which connects us to a human chain that stretches behind us since the beginning of time and, if we have children, continues after us till the end of time?

This is deeply meaningful and integral to who we are. It gives us a place in the world. People can be adopted into biological chains, sure. In our family, there are 20+ cousins on each side, and both sides are happy to include an adopted child. Those children are every bit as much a part of the family as the other children. But our blood tie is strong because most of us share it. Like all families, we have our arguments and annoyances, but in the end we are family. Blood is thicker than water and we overcome our little tiffs because that’s what families do, partly in honor of those people we share who produced us. We often talk about them and speculate about the genesis of some of our traits. That’s what it means to be a family.

Years ago I read The Handmaid’s Tale, which I greatly disliked. The lefty author posited a silly fictional world where patriarchal religious leaders instituted a system of producing children that involved designated “handmaids” as child factories. No one who understood Christian reverence for life would ever write such a book, but change the background story to ART companies in search of profits, and that is exactly what we have today. It is a growing “industry” that it is time to regulate.

 

There are 253 comments.

Become a member to join the conversation. Or sign in if you're already a member.
  1. Valiuth Inactive
    Valiuth
    @Valiuth

    Merina Smith:We all feel deep sympathy for people who want children and are unable to have them. But in all this ethical morass, the most important question is this. What about the children? People who pursue artificial reproduction are making a decision for a person–the resulting child or children–who will have to live with the consequences of that decision, which often means that they have been deliberately deprived of one or both biological parents. To those who say that the child would rather exist than not exist, I will just say that this is not how we think of children. By that logic, every time we pass up an opportunity to make a child, by rape or any other means, we have deprived a child of existence.

    I call shenanigans. You are essentially arguing that many children of artificial reproduction have lives not worth living and to guard them against this we must prevent them from existing. To defend this argument you produce a non sequester of immense proportion by arguing that to not rape is to deny the existence of a child, and therefor if those who argue that it is a fundamental good that a person exists must also defend rape as rape can make more people.

    The problem I find with your analogy is this. Rape involves an involuntary physical and psychological harm to its victim (often a woman). On that basis alone it can not be viewed as a legitimate action. That rape can produce a child is incidental to the process, and is not its intent in 99% of rape cases that do in fact produce children. Even if impregnation was the intent it still can not be justified based on its involuntary nature. And there in lies the problem with your arguments about artificial conception. The process is voluntary for all adults, and while physical risks exists for some involved they are minimal and well within the range of societal acceptance. After all the risks of surrogacy are far smaller than organ donation.  Therefore you buttress your arguments with concerns for the welfare of children, children who if your regulations existed would themselves not exists. You are not proposing anything that would make a child’s life better, you are proposing a societal pruning operation that will remove from existence people who you find undesirable. You make the same arguments abortion peddlers do about the necessity of abortion.

    The non-existence of a person (which is what you desire) is of no benefit to that person, it is only a benefit to those who do exist. Jews would have benefited greatly had Hitler never existed, but what benefit would that have been to him, and what statistical analysis would have predicted how he would turnout when his parents created him?

    Ultimately when one goes down the path of arguing for the the benefits of non-existence of certain people (those conceived by artificial reproduction) one must wonder what makes the natural method so superior? Why not regulate all reproduction stringently. If it is a crime for one to pass on a congenital heart defect through sperm donation to strangers why is it legal to pass it on through sperm donation to a spouse?

    But, this aside I agree that there are troubling aspects to how we conceptualize of child bearing and rearing in the modern world. The solutions as you seem to envision them I think are just as likely to lead to gross violations of human dignity as those you seek to prevent. I think the solution though isn’t to prevent the “wrong” kinds of birth, but to have a support structure that gives people a chance to overcome their birth circumstances.

    • #1
  2. user_517406 Inactive
    user_517406
    @MerinaSmith

    My rape analogy is only to show that we do not think of children in a particular way–as in because a child could exist it should.  We don’t think that way, so the argument that however a child is brought into the world is fine because the child would rather exist doesn’t work.  I used the analogy to counter that.  In fact,  it does matter how people are brought into this world.  The point is that just because something can be done doesn’t make it right and as thinking, ethical creatures we need to ponder this, individually and as a nation.  As it currently stands, adults are making decisions for a children based on what they want, and the children very often resent that decision and suffer for it, which is why children conceived by anonymous sperm donation have a much higher incidence of drug and identity problems.  So there is a very real ethical dimension to this question.  NOT that we should question the existence of people already living who were conceived this way, but we can place restrictions on using ARTs going forward and I obviously emphatically think we should.

    • #2
  3. user_1030767 Inactive
    user_1030767
    @TheQuestion

    Valiuth: I call shenanigans. You are essentially arguing that many children of artificial reproduction have lives not worth living and to guard them against this we must prevent them from existing.

    That’s not true.  Potential children, meaning children who have not yet been conceived, have no right to live.  You have to exist to have rights.  If I had an extra-marital affair, I might conceive a child, which would then have a right to live.  I’m not harming any actual lives by refraining from having an affair.  The same would be true for any child produced by reproductive technology.  Refraining from using the technology doesn’t end any actual human lives.

    Given that each of us has eight great-grandparents, 16 great-great grandparents, 32 great-great-great grandparents, and so on, it’s almost a certainty that everyone of us has conceptions in our pedigree that were ill advised.  Some of those thousands of pairings of ancestors were out of wedlock.  Perhaps a few were rape.  We can oppose illegitimate means of conceiving children, while also loving those who are alive, however they got here.

    • #3
  4. Valiuth Inactive
    Valiuth
    @Valiuth

    Michael Sanregret:

    Valiuth: I call shenanigans. You are essentially arguing that many children of artificial reproduction have lives not worth living and to guard them against this we must prevent them from existing.

    That’s not true. Potential children, meaning children who have not yet been conceived, have no right to live. You have to exist to have rights. If I had an extra-marital affair, I might conceive a child, which would then have a right to live. I’m not harming any actual lives by refraining from having an affair. The same would be true for any child produced by reproductive technology. Refraining from using the technology doesn’t end any actual human lives.

    True, hypothetical beings have no rights, but likewise restricting a practice because of theoretical harm to hypothetical beings is also illogical. The effects on children of artificial reproduction is not a means by which to argue against its use or practice. Likewise one does not engage in adultery because of the consequence to future children of that act, but rather the consequence to your current spouse and family. A child produced of adultery is not less good nor I argue can its existence be viewed as a harm to anyone even if the act that produced it was in fact hurtful and in appropriate. So I argue that we should not make a case against artificial reproduction on the basis of what is best for hypothetical children.

    • #4
  5. Valiuth Inactive
    Valiuth
    @Valiuth

    One question about the children of sperm donations. Do you know to what extent those children also come from single parent homes? It seems to me though that even then you can’t outlaw all non-ideal family structures. Is artificial conception really so much more non-ideal than single parent homes, divorce, or whatever else increases the odds of negative outcomes for child development? This is what I mean about the solution needing to be a support system to overcome challenges. Otherwise we must invariably begin micromanaging peoples reproduction on the basis of utilitarian arguments, that reduce human worth and value to dry economic numbers and statistics. I don’t think that is what we want.

    • #5
  6. user_517406 Inactive
    user_517406
    @MerinaSmith

    Valiuth:

    Michael Sanregret:

    Valiuth: I call shenanigans. You are essentially arguing that many children of artificial reproduction have lives not worth living and to guard them against this we must prevent them from existing.

    That’s not true. Potential children, meaning children who have not yet been conceived, have no right to live. You have to exist to have rights. If I had an extra-marital affair, I might conceive a child, which would then have a right to live. I’m not harming any actual lives by refraining from having an affair. The same would be true for any child produced by reproductive technology. Refraining from using the technology doesn’t end any actual human lives.

    True, hypothetical beings have no rights, but likewise restricting a practice because of theoretical harm to hypothetical beings is also illogical. The effects on children of artificial reproduction is not a means by which to argue against its use or practice. Likewise one does not engage in adultery because of the consequence to future children of that act, but rather the consequence to your current spouse and family. A child produced of adultery is not less good nor I argue can its existence be viewed as a harm to anyone even if the act that produced it was in fact hurtful and in appropriate. So I argue that we should not make a case against artificial reproduction on the basis of what is best for hypothetical children.

    I think we have to make the case based on hypothetical children and that there is nothing wrong with doing that, in fact, it would be unethical not to.  There is a study that separates two parent and one parent families and I think same sex parents as well.  I forget who did the study, but  a little search should bring it up.

    • #6
  7. user_645127 Inactive
    user_645127
    @JenniferJohnson

    We should definitely work to ban anonymous gamete donation.

    • #7
  8. Misthiocracy Member
    Misthiocracy
    @Misthiocracy

    Honest question: Which section of the constitution gives the Federal Government authority to regulate artificial reproductive technologies?

    • #8
  9. user_645127 Inactive
    user_645127
    @JenniferJohnson

    Misthiocracy:Honest question: Which section of the constitution gives the Federal Government authority to regulate artificial reproductive technologies?

    13th Amendment?

    • #9
  10. user_1030767 Inactive
    user_1030767
    @TheQuestion

    I’m very attracted to libertarianism, but only as it applies to private property.  I believe my body is me, or part of me.  It’s not my property.  I don’t believe I have a right to conceive children anyway I wish.

    I’m not sure what the legal consequences, if any, of abusing one reproductive powers should be, but I think conceiving children you don’t intend to care for should be strongly discouraged.

    • #10
  11. Frank Soto Contributor
    Frank Soto
    @FrankSoto

    Parent A:

    Misthiocracy:Honest question: Which section of the constitution gives the Federal Government authority to regulate artificial reproductive technologies?

    13th Amendment?

    That’s ludicrous.

    • #11
  12. user_645127 Inactive
    user_645127
    @JenniferJohnson

    Frank Soto:

    Parent A:

    Misthiocracy:Honest question: Which section of the constitution gives the Federal Government authority to regulate artificial reproductive technologies?

    13th Amendment?

    That’s ludicrous.

    I don’t agree, but since I’m almost certain we start from different premises, it follows that we reach different conclusions.

    • #12
  13. user_517406 Inactive
    user_517406
    @MerinaSmith

    Misthiocracy:Honest question: Which section of the constitution gives the Federal Government authority to regulate artificial reproductive technologies?

    Commerce clause–that’s what they use for everything else.  Perhaps states should be the regulators.  They regulate, or used to, marriage.  This is definitely a marriage and family issue. On the whole I  like state regulation better, but I think Michael is correct–people should not be part of conceiving children they do not intend to care for.

    • #13
  14. Frank Soto Contributor
    Frank Soto
    @FrankSoto

    Parent A:

    Frank Soto:

    Parent A:

    Misthiocracy:Honest question: Which section of the constitution gives the Federal Government authority to regulate artificial reproductive technologies?

    13th Amendment?

    That’s ludicrous.

    I don’t agree, but since I’m almost certain we start from different premises, it follows that we reach different conclusions.

    Your premise is that children created by reproductive technologies are born slaves?

    • #14
  15. user_645127 Inactive
    user_645127
    @JenniferJohnson

    Frank Soto:

    Parent A:

    Frank Soto:

    Parent A:

    Misthiocracy:Honest question: Which section of the constitution gives the Federal Government authority to regulate artificial reproductive technologies?

    13th Amendment?

    That’s ludicrous.

    I don’t agree, but since I’m almost certain we start from different premises, it follows that we reach different conclusions.

    Your premise is that children created by reproductive technologies are born slaves?

    No.

    • #15
  16. user_1030767 Inactive
    user_1030767
    @TheQuestion

    Frank Soto:

    Parent A:

    Misthiocracy:Honest question: Which section of the constitution gives the Federal Government authority to regulate artificial reproductive technologies?

    13th Amendment?

    That’s ludicrous.

    I think the argument she is making is that if a child is “made to order” by technology, then we are effectively buying the child like a piece of property.  Given that these children don’t enter life in a state of slavery (no more than other dependents are), I don’t think the 13th Amendment should be interpreted to ban the artificial conception of children.  However, I agree with her premise that children should not be conceived outside of sexual intercourse.

    • #16
  17. user_1030767 Inactive
    user_1030767
    @TheQuestion

    Michael Sanregret:

     However, I agree with her premise that children should not be conceived outside of sexual intercourse.

    I should clarify that I don’t know whether or not conceiving children outside of sexual intercourse has significantly bad consequences.  I’m against conceiving children outside of intercourse as something intrinsically wrong.  I believe the natural process of procreation is part of the human soul, and deforming that process is not part of a well-lived human life.

    • #17
  18. Misthiocracy Member
    Misthiocracy
    @Misthiocracy

    Merina Smith: Perhaps states should be the regulators. They regulate, or used to, marriage. This is definitely a marriage and family issue. On the whole I like state regulation better…

    But then people will simply gravitate to those states whose fertility clinics are regulated the least, and therefore would be the least expensive. You’re endorsing a race for the bottom!!!

    < At this point Misthiocracy suffers from a case of the vapours and faints on a tasteful chaise. >

    • #18
  19. Valiuth Inactive
    Valiuth
    @Valiuth

    Michael Sanregret:

    Michael Sanregret:

    However, I agree with her premise that children should not be conceived outside of sexual intercourse.

    I should clarify that I don’t know whether or not conceiving children outside of sexual intercourse has significantly bad consequences. I’m against conceiving children outside of intercourse as something intrinsically wrong. I believe the natural process of procreation is part of the human soul, and deforming that process is not part of a well-lived human life.

    I can respect this view. I am however not sure it’s arguments are sufficient to warrant governmental regulation or restriction. I don’t think a strong enough case of harm to actual people can be made here, given the level of consent and minimal physical risk. The general rule is that things are legal unless they can be proven harmful. Even when harm can be shown, one also must ask if current statutes are sufficient. So I expect these clinics to meet safety and health codes, as well as truth in advertising standards.

    • #19
  20. user_645127 Inactive
    user_645127
    @JenniferJohnson

    I concede that allowing commerce to be part of how adults obtain the status of “parent” increases freedom and choices for adults. This is why it’s a kind of “chicken/egg” problem to my way of thinking–of course I want adults to have choices, generally speaking. I’ve never written or verbalized this argument before, but I’ve thought about it a lot. Bear with me as I try to work through it.

    When people are conceived naturally, there is a spontaneity to it, a lack of control, which serves as a kind of window for the new human life. The new human life freely enters through this window, not at the behest of the mother and father, but at the behest of nature. (I prefer to use God, but I am happy to say nature for this argument.) When one is conceived at the behest of nature, there is a certain freedom to this, which, defined here, means “lack of being under others’ control.” Life was given freely in this sense, by none other than Life Itself. The very spontaneity of natural conception means freedom, since it places the new individual outside the control of other individuals at the very point of conception.

    When artificial means are used for conception, and when commercial elements are used, all of this is changed. They shift the status of the new individual away from being fully free, to being a bit closer to a commodity. I am not arguing that the legal status is changed–clearly it is not changed. But something else is undermined.

    So my premise is that a fully free society needs freely conceived individuals. When we control the conception process, and when we use commercial means to obtain conception, in the name of increasing choices for affluent adults, we undermine our entire notion of what it means to be free.

    That’s now it looks to me at this time.

    I thought of this from Jurrasic Park (emphasis added):

    Dr. Ian Malcolm: Gee, the lack of humility before nature that’s being displayed here, uh… staggers me.

    Donald Gennaro: Well thank you, Dr. Malcolm, but I think things are a little bit different then you and I had feared…

    Dr. Ian Malcolm: Yeah, I know. They’re a lot worse.

    Donald Gennaro: Now, wait a second now, we haven’t even seen the park…

    John Hammond: No, no, Donald, Donald, Donald… let him talk. There’s no reason… I want to hear every viewpoint, I really do.

    Dr. Ian Malcolm: Don’t you see the danger, John, inherent in what you’re doing here? Genetic power is the most awesome force the planet’s ever seen, but you wield it like a kid that’s found his dad’s gun.

    Donald Gennaro: It’s hardly appropriate to start hurling generalizations…

    Dr. Ian Malcolm: If I may… Um, I’ll tell you the problem with the scientific power that you’re using here, it didn’t require any discipline to attain it. You read what others had done and you took the next step. You didn’t earn the knowledge for yourselves, so you don’t take any responsibility for it. You stood on the shoulders of geniuses to accomplish something as fast as you could, and before you even knew what you had, you patented it, and packaged it, and slapped it on a plastic lunchbox, and now

    [bangs on the table]

    Dr. Ian Malcolm: you’re selling it, you wanna sell it. Well…

    John Hammond: I don’t think you’re giving us our due credit. Our scientists have done things which nobody’s ever done before…

    Dr. Ian Malcolm: Yeah, yeah, but your scientists were so preoccupied with whether or not they could that they didn’t stop to think if they should.

    John Hammond: Condors. Condors are on the verge of extinction…

    Dr. Ian Malcolm: [shaking his head] No…

    John Hammond: If I was to create a flock of condors on this island, you wouldn’t have anything to say.

    Dr. Ian Malcolm: No, hold on. This isn’t some species that was obliterated by deforestation, or the building of a dam. Dinosaurs had their shot, and nature selected them for extinction.

    John Hammond: I simply don’t understand this Luddite attitude, especially from a scientist. I mean, how can we stand in the light of discovery, and not act?

    Dr. Ian Malcolm: What’s so great about discovery? It’s a violent, penetrative act that scars what it explores. What you call discovery, I call the rape of the natural world.

    =====================================

    When I got to that part of the quote, I thought of this: http://www.itnsource.com/stockfootage/K02029/

    • #20
  21. user_517406 Inactive
    user_517406
    @MerinaSmith

    I just don’t think the pure libertarian stance cuts it here because we are dealing with questions of life.  States regulate murder, euthanasia, abortion, etc.  And should, because let me tell you, the record ain’t good when humans start to try to mess with life.  The 20th century had a sorry, sorry track record along those lines.  In this instance, the life that is created has to deal the problems as a result of that creation instigated by adults for their own purposes–not having a father, not knowing  family or  medical history and the like. And it changes how we regard children–they are engineered, created to the specifications of adults.   The kind of thinking inevitably drifts further and further into something like dog breeding.   We no longer love what we get, we do what we have to do to get what we want.

    As I said above, how many women would reject a child that she  carried in their body, whatever the problem?  I don’t know any, and if I did, I would not think much of that woman.  I think it will be much easier with ARTs to reject the child you thought you wanted that didn’t turnout quite right, as we saw from that case just last week of the child whose mother sued the sperm bank for sending her African American sperm.  How can that darling little girl ever view her mother’s actions as anything but rejection?  Regulations should be used carefully, but there is a time to do it, and I think this is an area where it is desperately needed.

    • #21
  22. x Inactive
    x
    @CatoRand

    Parent A:

    Misthiocracy:Honest question: Which section of the constitution gives the Federal Government authority to regulate artificial reproductive technologies?

    13th Amendment?

    No.

    • #22
  23. x Inactive
    x
    @CatoRand

    Parent A:

    Frank Soto:

    Parent A:

    Misthiocracy:Honest question: Which section of the constitution gives the Federal Government authority to regulate artificial reproductive technologies?

    13th Amendment?

    That’s ludicrous.

    I don’t agree, but since I’m almost certain we start from different premises, it follows that we reach different conclusions.

    What color is the sky in your world?

    • #23
  24. user_1030767 Inactive
    user_1030767
    @TheQuestion

    Valiuth:

    Michael Sanregret:

    Michael Sanregret:

    However, I agree with her premise that children should not be conceived outside of sexual intercourse.

    I should clarify that I don’t know whether or not conceiving children outside of sexual intercourse has significantly bad consequences. I’m against conceiving children outside of intercourse as something intrinsically wrong. I believe the natural process of procreation is part of the human soul, and deforming that process is not part of a well-lived human life.

    I can respect this view. I am however not sure it’s arguments are sufficient to warrant governmental regulation or restriction. I don’t think a strong enough case of harm to actual people can be made here, given the level of consent and minimal physical risk. The general rule is that things are legal unless they can be proven harmful. Even when harm can be shown, one also must ask if current statutes are sufficient. So I expect these clinics to meet safety and health codes, as well as truth in advertising standards.

    I wouldn’t want to make anything illegal based on what I just described.  How to live a well-lived life seems pretty clearly the kind of thing people should be able to make their own decisions on.  I do think that there is no right to sire children that you don’t plan to raise, either because they are surplus frozen embryos, or because you chose to be a “baby daddy.”  Making those things illegal likely wouldn’t be good policy (like marijuana prohibition), but I don’t think it would be a violation of fundamental rights to make, for example, anonymous sperm donation a crime.

    • #24
  25. user_1030767 Inactive
    user_1030767
    @TheQuestion

    Kevin Williamson nails the way that artificial insemination commodifies human life here.

    • #25
  26. MarciN Member
    MarciN
    @MarciN

    The biggest problem I have with ART is that it feels as though it is ahead of our ability to completely understand it in terms of what we are doing with human life.  It started out with the best intentions, but it has gotten ahead of us.  I say that because there are warehouses storing somewhere between 400,000 and 600,000 viable human embryos.

    The fact that the doctors and parents have neither destroyed these nor claimed them tells me that no one knows what exactly these embryos are–are they human beings or not.

    We just keep adding to the pile.

    To put this number in perspective, there are currently approximately 400,000 children in foster care in the United States at any given moment.

    I’m trying to picture the future for the embryos. I know some have actually been adopted and raised to maturity. I’ll bet some of the people who created these have long since disappeared from their contact information.

    I wonder how many of these embryos are completely whole after being in storage for so long.

    I cannot imagine what the future holds for these embryos.  (Except my paranoid self says they are very vulnerable to the worst kind exploitation. The first psychopath who comes along and offers to takes these embryos off our hands. . . )

    What would you do if you pursued ART and had some viable embryos left over? I’m just curious.

    • #26
  27. x Inactive
    x
    @CatoRand

    Few thoughts:

    1) I’m most deeply troubled by the left over embryos.   I’m a “life begins at conception” guy.

    2) I’m a bit troubled by surrogacy.  At the end of the day, I think I come down on the side of a surrogate being free to make the choice whether to serve in that role, but I can’t help but agree with Merina that it’s likely to often be regretted.  I think it also inevitably leads to a degree of legal conflict, which is not productive.

    3) I wonder about the evidence for the claim that children conceived by ART have more problems.  My intuition says that seems unlikely, when other factors are controlled for, but I’m not familiar with any research, so I’m open to being proven wrong.

    4) I’m not troubled by sperm donation per se, but would like to see some limits on who can receive a donation — much like we do for adoption — to ensure that the would be parents are stable and capable of caring for a child.  Do we do that?  And I guess also screening of donors for genetic disease.  Somehow I was assuming we do that, but now that I think of it, I fear I may be wrong.

    5)  Does anybody know universe of ART?  There’s surrogacy.  There’s artificial insemination (both in the womb and in the lab, I believe, no?).  What else is there?

    • #27
  28. MarciN Member
    MarciN
    @MarciN

    Cato, we share the same concerns and questions.

    • #28
  29. user_517406 Inactive
    user_517406
    @MerinaSmith

    Here’s a very good recent study specifically about children conceived through sperm donation.

    http://americanvalues.org/catalog/pdfs/Donor_FINAL.pdf

    I find it very troubling that the number of children that can be produced by one donor isn’t limited and that men can donate anonymously, which makes it hard for children to trace their fathers if they need to.  I see why fathers want to remain anonymous, but I don’t think that is for the good of kids.  Many genetic health problems don’t show up till later in life.  But really, that’s just the tip of iceberg of the myriad troubles and potential problems I see with this practice.

    The Center for Bioethics and Culture has a very good website that addresses these issues.

    http://www.cbc-network.org/

    There is a documentary on the subject you can access there called Breeders.

    • #29
  30. user_517406 Inactive
    user_517406
    @MerinaSmith

    Here’s a quotation from the CBC site about sperm donors, a majority of whom say they donate out of concern for infertile couples.

    In Canada and much of Europe, it’s a criminal offense to be compensated for your sperm (or blood or eggs). As such, the United States has become the leading supplier of sperm—shipping and selling sperm throughout the world. In short, the buying and selling of sperm is big business. The more men these providers can lure into the practice, the more money there is to be made. The more “donors,” the merrier it is for these providers.

    Of course, the outcome of such a practice is that children are born without any knowledge of their biological fathers or their medical histories. Many of these children suffer from geological bewilderment and often lament the commercialization of the practice that allowed for their conception.

    • #30

Comments are closed because this post is more than six months old. Please write a new post if you would like to continue this conversation.