Researchers from Harvard and Brown universities warn that in the future scientists may be able to create embryos from skin cells. As the UK Daily Mail reported, “The technique could allow women whose fertility has been wiped out by cancer drugs or radiotherapy to have their own children,” but as the title of their report highlighted, it could also cut mothers out of the reproductive process, allowing gay men to “have babies with each other, and a man could even fertilize his own cells to produce offspring containing a mixture of genes inherited from him and his parents.”
It is already common for women and couples using in vitro fertilization (IVF) to choose the sex of the embryos being implanted. This new “motherless” technique would be another step in the progression of genetic engineering and a greater departure from natural conception, gestation, and birth.
Bioethicist Hank Greely has argued that not only will IVF be easier and cheaper, but the rapidly developing field of genetics will make divorce sex from reproduction. Babies will be grown in labs: “What I think is going to happen, we’ll be able to take some skin cells from anyone and turn them into any cell type… I think we’ll actually see a world where most babies born to people with good health coverage will be conceived in the lab.”
The Rise of GMO Babies
The latest breakthroughs have given us GMO babies. Last year it was reported that embryos could now be created with genetic material from three “parents”: replacing the original mitochondria with one from a different mother to prevent the child from inheriting diseases deriving from mitochondrial DNA mutations. By and large the media, seeking to sensationalize the development and place it within the context of alternative family arrangements, framed it not as “This new technique could save lives,” but “Look, now babies can have three parents!”
In far more substance than the genetic engineering of apples and oranges, this sort has grave ethical concerns and broad implications for how families are constructed and future generations produced. The assault on the organic family—that is, the union of a man and woman who conceive and raise their children—isn’t just in policy, although this is the most obvious conflict. For years, labs have been developing tools to destroy the organic family. They may have been designed for noble purposes, for curing and preventing diseases; but as sinful creatures, we aim to turn them toward fulfilling our own desires.
As with the “three-parent baby,” the media have been both reflecting and feeding the selfishness of adults and their love lives. Gay and straight couples alike increasingly view babies as prizes or as lifestyle accessories. Some even attempt to fashion their children into reflections of their sexuality: “I’m constantly trying to like queer my relationship with [donor-conceived son Atticus] and get him to wear tutus,” lesbian mother Michelle told BuzzFeed. “He hates it.”
How ironic this is in light of Greely’s assertion that sex and reproduction will have little to do with one another.
Parenting Is Not About Self-Fulfillment
As Anna Mussman has written: “Motherhood is not fulfilling when it is done primarily for personal fulfillment. Our kids aren’t pets, accessories, or even spouses who have sworn to love and cherish us. They are not objects who make our life more fun. They are really bad at being objects. Instead, they are human beings with their own needs and sinful human nature. It is a tremendous privilege to raise them, but we won’t recognize this until we think of motherhood as a blessed way to give to others.”
Yet parenthood for self-fulfillment is the part of the cultural context in which this science is developing, and for which those breakthroughs will be monetized. Without a strong set of ethics guiding our laws, industries will meet these desires.
Consider the surrogacy industry. Same-sex couples are helping this market thrive. DC just lifted restrictions on it. It is the commercialization of childbirth, its recent growth fueled by a belief that gay couples are as entitled to bear and raise genetic children as is any organic union. Yet creating children for parents whose bodies cannot organically create them is far different than such parents adopting children, as Jayme Metzgar has noted: “Adoption begins when a child has already suffered a loss, [but] surrogacy starts out by purposefully creating a loss.”
In the years leading up to the Supreme Court decision nationalizing gay marriage, Obergefell v. Hodges, and in the short span since, the debate is already leagues beyond whether gays should adopt babies who are already born and need homes. Now we are grappling with the reality of buying and selling babies. Don’t pretend that’s not what it is—there’s a financial exchange for growing a baby. What else would you call it?
Buying People Is Cruel and Selfish
Buying a child via surrogacy is cruel and selfish. Most often it deprives her of knowing at least one biological parent in addition to the mother who nourished and supported her for nine months and brought her into the world. Buying a baby from a lab, even if she’s made up completely of the commissioning couple’s DNA, is even more cruel and selfish. It could deprive her of any mother at all.
If two men are “conceiving” a child, that baby must be grown in a surrogate or, when the technology permits, an artificial womb, which would certainly be more convenient and with fewer legal pitfalls but less humane.
Motherhood begins with gestation, not birth, but in the case of a lab gestation, there would be no mother. Babies recognize their mother’s voice from hearing it in the womb, and as experts on surrogacy have explained, human pregnancy creates a deep, lifelong bond between mother and baby.
Family therapist Nancy Verrier said in an interview for the documentary “Breeders: A Subclass of Woman?,” “The baby is hurt by the separation, by the loss, of that mother that it knows.” What trauma, then, would a child with no mother experience?
Lab-grown babies would be a great leap in commodifying children. This is a progression in lockstep with both the sexual revolution, which bestows legitimacy to a wide array of sexual orientations and arrangements, and with modern feminism. Both the New Sexuality and feminism declare to gay couples and single women: “If a baby sounds nice to you, who should tell you you cannot have what you want?” Genetic engineering is the latest tool in that effort to meet demand for babies, and the stakes are high.
Obergefell Was Just the Beginning of a New War on Children
Obergefell wasn’t the end of the war over the merits of the organic family. It was the beginning, much like Roe v. Wade was for abortion. We must never relent on presenting the evidence that the organic family is the best situation for raising children and that perverting it will lead to misery.
Recent, comprehensive research conducted by Dr. Paul Sullins at the Catholic University of America has found that “children with samesex parents are assessed at higher levels of distress, compared to children with opposite-sex parents, for every measure of child emotional difficulty, developmental difficulty or treatment service.” Additionally, children of same-sex couples, “are at almost four (3.6) times the risk of emotional problems when compared to children residing with married biological parents.” Sullins also found that, “Risk of child emotional problems is 1.9-2.2 times greater, significant at .01 or better, with same-sex parents than with opposite-sex cohabiting parents or step-parent family.”
According to this study, which was far more comprehensive than the small ones popularized by the media that claim the opposite, it is more beneficial for children to be raised by two opposite-sex parents, and when they are raised by married opposite-sex biological parents, the rates of distress to children are nearly twice as low.
True, this ostensibly imminent breakthrough of turning skin cells into embryos would open the possibility that children could have two (or more) biologically related same-sex parents, but it wouldn’t negate the strong evidence that children of same-sex couples are at greater risk for distress than of opposite-sex unions, such as those including step parents.
Katy Faust summed up the problem with designer babies well: “[Children] are not items to be cut and pasted into the romantic configuration of adults…Kids don’t just need ‘love and safety.’ They actually crave male and female parental love and receive unique and complimentary benefits from both mother and father.”
No Amount of Propaganda Can Upend the Truth
Nevertheless, as science advances it will appear to fill in the gap between homosexual unions and natural families. That’s what the headlines will suggest. Scientists will testify before Congress that engineering and growing babies in labs is “safe” and “effective,” and that they “do not foresee harm to any of the parties involved.” LGBT advocates will tearfully proclaim that this new breakthrough will “afford lesbian and gay couples the right they so cherish, but which up to this point their immutable love for each other has prevented: having a child that biologically reflects their loving union.”
They will lie to the powers that be, and to themselves.
Unpopular as it is to say, there is such a thing as eternal truth. The universe was designed to work a certain way. There is a natural order, and natural law; it does not fall away or bend to our wills, no matter how ardent our desires, or even how good our intentions. When the natural order is perverted, there are consequences. The law asserts itself on the culpable and those they impact alike.
While many not have foreseen these revolutionary scientific discoveries or thought through their consequence, society has no excuse. The natural order is not just knowable, it is obvious. As the Apostle Paul wrote in his letter to the Romans: “The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of people, who suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.”
The problems with departing from the organic family are deeper than just being able to create genetically related offspring. This may well be called a “brave new world,” but we will come to see that science will never overthrow the natural order. It will only prove its existence.