December 5, 2005
Setting out the Christmas decorations, a child in the manger, watched over by mother and father, honored by shepherds and wise men, welcomed with love…it gives rise to thoughts about the wonder of life.
Those of us in the boomer generation have lived through a time of great human experimentation. It has focused on the foundational definition of life itself, with stunning implications for our children and grandchildren. We stand on the brink of the brave new world we read about in high school English. And we have a solemn duty. We must bear witness to the changes we have made to a thread of life that will trail behind as we leave this earth.
Once upon a time, a man and a woman fell in love. They committed to a lifetime together and gave birth to children. As each baby grew in the womb, local wives tales served to predict whether the child was a boy or a girl. In the end, couples went to the delivery room with one prayer, “Let our baby be healthy.”
Today, babies are ordered up according to specifications, like picking out a Beanie Baby off the shelf, ready-made. The variations on designing babies is endless:
- In 2002, the story broke about a lesbian couple, both of them deaf, who chose to create a deaf baby. Their son Gauvin was the second deaf child fathered for them by a sperm donor with five generations of deafness in his family.
- Recent debate has focused on whether technology should be used to eliminate congenital diseases or disabilities. Many disability and gay organizations have felt threatened by the concept of pursuing “perfect” children.
- In Britain, the legal barriers preventing a couple from creating a designer baby to help save the life of an existing sick child were eliminated in 2001. Pre-implantation genetic diagnosis on embryos not only promises a baby free of certain identifiable diseases, but also allows “embryo selection” to determine the sex of a baby.
- Chinese demographers warn that the nation’s social fabric could unravel based on sex selection that eliminates girl babies. Figures published in Chinese media reveal 116.86 boys are born for every 100 girls in China. Since the 1970s, when China instituted its strict birth control policy, couples have sought ways to guarantee a son.
- Sex selection in India and China is achieved chiefly through ultrasound scans followed by the selective abortion of female fetuses. In the United States, the Genetics and IVF Institute in Fairfax, Virginia, is pioneering preconception sex selection by means of a system that segregates sperm that will produce girls from those that will produce boys.
- In England, Jamie Whitaker was designed by and born to his parents for the purpose of providing a genetic match to four-year-old brother Charlie who suffers from leukemia. Called “test tube baby treatment”, Jamie’s father defends the process by saying he didn’t select his baby for insignificant reasons like color of eyes or sex. The Whitaker’s doctor Mohammad Taranissi says he is aware of dozens of other couples who want to undergo this same procedure.
- Faced with high rates of infertility and a declining number of infants available for adoption, infertility treatment has become big business in the United States. “Success” at producing pregnancies has given rise to the “problem” of increasing multiple births. Twin births have risen 52% and triplet and greater births have quadrupled since 1980. Multiple births increased by nearly 400% for women in their 30s and by more than 1,000% for women in their 40s.
- In 2004, researchers in South Korea created 30 cloned embryos that grew to about 100 cells in size – further than any verified experiment so far. This meant they were able to harvest embryonic stem cells from one of the embryos. Internationally, scientists expressed concern that maverick scientists learning from this experiment will soon attempt to clone a baby. For the South Korean experiments, scientists used 242 eggs donated from 16 healthy women.
- In 2005, the key South Korean doctor admitted to paying these women for “egg retrieval” in violation of ethical assurances the eggs had been donated. Bioethicists warn of the dangers such payments pose for coercing poor women into risky medical procedures.
- Insurance companies are coming closer to dictating gene profiling of unborn babies. Many anticipate a day when insurance carriers will enforce abortion on parents with a “choose or lose” policy that refuses medical coverage for babies born with problems diagnosed in the womb.
With so much recent attention on creating babies, we must remember this is all taking place at the same time we are aborting over 1.2 million babies each year in the United States. The reason? No room at the inn…we can’t find a way to make a place for these babies in our lives.
Two thousand years have passed since the birth of the baby in the manger. In the past forty years we have prided ourselves on modern progress. We are busy manufacturing a world to leave our children, where babies are products of human design that can be destroyed like all products when they fail to meet manufacturer specifications.
It seems particularly important this year to look up at the sky and wonder at the majesty of babies created by the great Creator. If we are dissatisfied with His grand design, how can we feel any greater satisfaction at our own handiwork?
Perhaps we would be better off accepting all babies that arrive at the doorstep, giving praise for their blessing to our lives, opening the door, and making one more bed in the inn.
August 1, 2005 – Signs of Life
January 17, 2005 – The Pregnant Elephant in the Room
June 25, 2004 – Unplanned Joy
See Archives for more past editorials.