The distorted desires of the designer baby project…

Designer Baby

Designer babies! As the name implies, these babies are made to a certain specification—to have certain traits, but not others.


Some of these babies are produced for parents in search of a healthy baby—a baby without a genetic disease.


Other parents want a baby that has a disability—a baby with deafness or dwarfism, just like themselves.


Still others want a baby of a particular sex—a girl, please … no, we prefer a boy.


Yet other parents want to increase their chances of having a child with high intelligence, athletic ability, or physical beauty.


The Crude Business of Choice


Making designer babies is a crude business that seeks to allow only children with certain characteristics to be born. In some cases, sperm or egg donors are used to improve the chances of having a child with desired traits. In other cases, genetic screening is used to cull out embryos or babies with undesirable traits.


Like all businesses, the designer baby business is built on satisfying a variety of customer desires. It gives parents the ability—although a crude and limited ability—to choose their children in much the same way they shop for a computer.


Although it is part of the medical establishment, the goal of the designer baby project is not to make the sick or disabled well. Even when it aims at the birth of a healthy baby, it does not produce healthy babies by healing. Healthy babies are born simply because the unhealthy are eliminated: “Unhealthy” embryos are discarded in the lab, and “imperfect” babies are aborted in the womb.


Like the rest of the $3 billion-per-year fertility industry, the designer baby business is largely unregulated. It appears to be limited only by the current state of the technology, the desires of parents, their ability to pay, and the availability of a clinic willing to comply with their wishes. …


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I originally wrote this article for BreakPoint Worldview Magazine.  It was published in the April, 2007 issue under the title Baby Shopping:  The Clash of Worldviews in Bioethics.”  A revised version will be included in At Issue:  Designer Babies, edited by Clay Farris Naff (Gale/Cengage Learning).   Published by a secular press, this anthology on ethics and critical decision making will be available in early 2013.

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