Analysis

Using reproductive technologies to avoid suffering has led to suffering of its own

reproductive technology, IVF

The coronavirus pandemic has served for many as a forceful reminder of our mortality as humans. A recent Wall Street Journal article noted that the transhumanism movement capitalizes on such fears, touting the promise of “eternal life through advanced technology” to bolster support for what otherwise might be considered extremist or unethical goals.

Currently, nanorobots (and other artificial intelligence), prosthetics and implants, and genetic engineering are the most favored technologies of the transhumanist movement, whose 1998 Transhumanist Declaration sought “the possibility of broadening human potential by overcoming aging, cognitive shortcomings, involuntary suffering, and our confinement to planet Earth.” According to a 2019 Areo magazine article, these ideas are being adopted and used by companies like Google, Apple, Tesla, and Space X and financially backed by Silicon Valley executives like Jeff Bezos of Amazon, Elon Musk of Tesla, and Peter Thiel of PayPal and Palantir, and more.

In some ways, transhumanism’s pursuit of a future without suffering is already being aggressively pursued through artificial reproductive technologies (ART). Preimplantation genetic testing and genetic testing during pregnancy offer a false hope for a future without suffering—and surrogacy, womb transplants, and three-parent babies promise a baby at all costs.

All of these technologies lead to the commodification of human beings, dehumanizing the weakest and most vulnerable among us.

READ: Woman’s DNA test shows 29 siblings, thanks to unchecked fertility industry

 

Preimplantation genetic testing, preimplantation genetic screening, and “designer babies”

On the surface, preimplantation genetic testing done on embryos conceived through IVF seems like a positive means of preventing disease. When performed on embryos who have one parent with a known genetic abnormality, it is known as preimplantation genetic diagnosis (PGD). When performed on embryos as a generic screen for a plethora of potential problems, it’s called preimplantation genetic screening (PGS). Families in which one parent has cystic fibrosis are just one example of potential candidates for PGD. Yet some would go so far as to say that even if families don’t have trouble getting pregnant, they have a “duty” to themselves and/or their potential children to use IVF to avoid having children with the same genetic condition. Families who have sought IVF after years of unexplained infertility are also potential candidates for PGS.

In plain language, the thinking goes that if getting pregnant is this costly and time-intensive, you had better be getting your money’s worth. While screening embryos with the goal of avoiding future suffering is understandable (yet misguided), that’s not the only reason for preimplantation genetic testing. “Designer babies” can also be chosen based on arbitrary characteristics like height, weight, eye color, and more. No matter what the reason, PGD and PGS lend themselves to the commodification of human beings, treating preborn people as “manufactured goods,” with the natural end results of genetically inferior embryos being discarded like so much excess waste.

Prenatal genetic testing for eugenic purposes

Once children have been conceived, via whatever means, they face another existential threat in the form of prenatal genetic testing. While genetic testing falsely promises to alleviate future suffering, it has been used repeatedly for eugenic purposes. Initially developed for “high-risk” mothers only, genetic testing is now offered to all expectant mothers in the United States as part of routine prenatal care. These screening tests are not 100% accurate, and positive results are meant to be confirmed with other diagnostic tests like amniocentesis or chorionic villus sampling, but there have been known cases of abortion based on the results of screening tests alone.

Being able to diagnose children prenatally has led to “wrongful birth” lawsuits like this one over a girl born with cystic fibrosis. Iceland has gained notoriety for nearly “eradicating” Down syndrome… by aborting every single baby diagnosed prenatally with it. In the United States, the abortion rate of babies with Down syndrome is more difficult to ascertain, but is estimated to also be high.

Surrogacy, womb transplants, and three-parent babies viewed as “progress”

The Areo article noted, “Some transhumanists view a wish to obtain satisfaction from natural bodily functions, such as carrying a baby to term and experiencing the various associated biological and emotional sensations, as anti-progress.” Since part of transhumanism has a goal of pushing the limits of what is physically possible, it is no wonder that surrogacy, womb transplants, and three-parent babies are all promoted in the name of progress.

Surrogacy has been criticized internationally as reproductive human trafficking by essentially turning women—especially poor women—into “wombs for hire.” Even in situations of “altruistic surrogacy” in which the mother is not paid, the potential for abuse still exists, as surrogate mothers are vulnerable to pressure to abort the babies they carry if the genetic parents change their minds.

Womb transplants are also fraught with ethical concerns, like potential risks to both mother and baby, and the exploitation of vulnerable women as with surrogacy. Three-parent babies are already being born in Europe. Speaking of this process, which involves manipulation of two women’s eggs before fertilization by a man’s sperm in a laboratory, bioethicist Fr. Tad Pacholczyk noted, “The final egg produced really belongs to neither woman, so that the technological manipulations introduce a fissure between any child conceived from the engineered egg and both ‘mothers.’ The child becomes ‘distanced’ and to a significant degree ‘orphaned’ from both women involved in the process.”

Transhumanism’s tenets are already being promoted within the artificial reproductive technology (ART) industry, and these current practices are already leading to devastating situations. This shouldn’t surprise us. After all, as Areo states, “If we see bodies as little more than parts, to be artificially generated, assembled and disassembled, we need not associate them with human rights, nor should any biological process be viewed as exclusive to any particular group.”

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