Russell and Duenes

In-Vitro Fertilization, Designer Babies and Humans as Commodities

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Daniel Kuebler has a new post over at The Public Discourse entitled: “IVF, Designer Babies, and Commodifying Human Life.” He has much to say, particularly about the connection between IVF and the possible mainstreaming of human genetic modification. But this excerpt caught my attention.

While not downplaying the emotional difficulties associated with infertility or questioning the intrinsic human dignity of those created via the IVF process, it is important to be honest regarding the myriad problems the IVF “solution” has created. The process itself involves the production of excess numbers of human embryos, only a small fraction of which will ever be implanted into a uterus. These excess embryos have been the subject of litigation between parents, between oocyte donors and IVF clinics, and between sperm donors and biological mothers.

But the issues don’t stop there. Couples have sued because of sperm mix-ups that have led to biracial babies. Surrogate mothers carrying IVF embryos have been involved in litigation regarding everything from custody, to demands for selective abortions, to compensation issues. The entire IVF practice has facilitated a mindset of seeing babies as commodities to be acquired, contracted for, litigated, and purchased through whatever means necessary. They become commodities to be tailored to the desires of the parents either through selective reduction of multiples, through choosing the appropriate characteristics of the sperm donor, or through pre-implantation genetic diagnosis, which can be used to screen for everything from disease susceptibility to the gender of the child. . . Viewed in this manner, the leftover embryos become just one more commodity to be manipulated.

In my experience, In-vitro Fertilization (IVF) is one of those topics that gets little, if any, treatment from evangelical pastors/leaders, and I sometimes wonder why. I have heard it suggested that IVF may find biblical sanction where only one human embryo is implanted in the mother, so as to foreclose the possibility of any “leftover embryos” which might later be experimented on and killed. However, this suggestion seems to ignore the general way in which IVF is conducted, as described by Kuebler above.

Another possibility for ignoring IVF is simply “battle fatigue.” There may be a good number of evangelicals who agree with the IVF problems Kuebler raises, but who are simply tired of having to “care about” yet another “issue.” Wearied, they just want to get back to “the gospel.” They don’t want to have to ostensibly “condemn” yet another category of people, IVFers, particularly IVFers who have agonized over being childless. With this sentiment I have great sympathy.

However, this makes me wonder about the way in which we evangelicals tend to approach “issues.” In other words, it seems to me that if we saw the interconnected nature of all reality/realities within “the gospel,” and we had pastors who could unpack and lay bare this interconnectedness to us in a winsome and routine way, we might not suffer from this “fatigue.” We might not see IVF, and many other moral/spiritual questions, as “just another issue.” We might see them all as fitting under our obligation from Romans 12:2 to “be not conformed to this world, but to be transformed by the renewing of [our] minds.” We might see them as opportunities to articulate the varied way in which Jesus connects with our lives.

Worth considering, I think. Read the whole article here.



Written by Michael Duenes

April 30, 2016 at 1:49 pm

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