By Faith White, VI Form
Babies Are Babies: Multiple Viewpoints on IVF
My older siblings are twins, scientifically made in a lab, test tube babies. Scientists wearing white coats created them, in a Petri dish. Just like 4 million other children, they would not be here without science and medicine. Despite its many success stories, however, IVF has brought about many ideological controversies involving religion, ethics, and socioeconomics. But had it not been for my IVF siblings and my mother’s reproductive system resetting, I am not sure that I would ever be born. The question remains, however, should a couple that is struggling to conceive for one reason or another, but is able to pay to use IVF to have the baby that they have always wanted, benefit while poorer couples go without? Scientifically, IVF consists of a scientist combining an egg and a sperm outside of a uterus, and once the egg is fertilized, it is put back into a woman’s body. This isn’t limited to one familial situation but includes gay, male couples that can now have half-biologically related children through IVF impregnated surrogate mothers.
The first conflict involving IVF is that the idea of scientists taking over God’s job of creating children is against religion. If a couple wants to get pregnant though, what does it matter what the Pope or a higher power might believe? Second, creating embryos is expensive, meaning that a couple has to be well off financially in order to afford IVF. This is further magnified by the fact that it usually takes more than one try to get pregnant through these means. This socioeconomic problem leads to a third ethical concern. The rate of twins, according to a BBC.com, has increased by 70% since 1978, because doctors insert more than one embryo into a woman’s uterus for a better chance of getting pregnant, usually leading to twins or triplets. Is it fair that those who can afford IVF are able to get pregnant possibly with more than one child, if a poorer couple does not even get the chance for one? On the contrary, is a family that has stretched its financial resources to get pregnant through IVF even able to cope with the strain of twins, triplets, or quads? Though each of these concerns remains a valid argument against IVF procedures, IVF has enabled parenthood to 4 million babies and will lead to more, so why try to obstruct this progress and joyous opportunity for so many?
PGD is a branch of IVF that provides couples with the chance to diagnose an embryo’s genes and ensure it does not carry a given disease. Diseases like Down syndrome, spinal muscular atrophy, cystic fibrosis, or rare blood disorders, such as Diamond-Blackfan anemia, can now be eliminated in future generations through PGD. Where the controversy comes into play, according to a CBSNews interview with Dr. Jeff Steinberg, director of Fertility Institute, is scientists have further progressed PGD to be able to determine the gender of babies and have almost reached the point of determining eye color, hair color, freckles, height, even intelligence or athletic ability, thus creating a “designer baby.”
There are several obvious and concerning problems that would arise from this possible development. First, as humanfuture.org reports, many people believe that creating designer babies would result in a situation similar to that of Adolf Hitler’s Aryan race. Second, each designer baby is extremely costly per embryo, thus meaning that only wealthier clients can afford to create their dream child. Third, the concern is that parents, who pay for their child to be either smarter or more athletic, may come down harder on their child in the pursuit of perfection once born. While needing to be monitored for the negative possibilities, I believe that PGD should be celebrated because of its possible advantages for creating healthier generations in the future,
In addition, at this point, scientists can only determine gender with about 90% accuracy says CNN.com, and anything else is still up to fate just like it is with conceiving naturally. I am not very religious. I fully believe that regardless of what God or scientists may have provided for a person, anyone can do anything. I am not worried about designer babies. Every family, traditional or non-traditional, should be able to have a healthy child. PGD enables this outcome reducing the possibility of genetic diseases.
Faith White is a VI Form boarding student from Wellesley, MA. She is a co-head monitor, is obsessed with vampires, and loves avocados.