As assisted reproductive technologies grow more commonplace, it’s important to have a framework that not only guides our legal standards for reproduction and unborn life, but also our moral standards.
What may have started as an experimental solution for couples who had difficulty conceiving naturally is now a multibillion-dollar global industry that monetizes reproduction for anyone and everyone who is willing to pay for it. As science advances, big fertility is expected to grow even bigger.
In true “Brave New World” fashion, biotechnologists have already begun developing facilities filled with artificial wombs that intentionally distance a baby from his biological mother in exchange for manufactured nourishment until birth. That, combined with global scientists’ attempts to mainstream a type of “gene editing” that borders gene enhancement, is a recipe for ethical, moral, and scientific disaster.
Ethical concerns about fertility practices such as in vitro fertilization (IVF), egg and sperm supply, and surrogacy are not new. Yet, ever since the popularization of these practices in the U.S., calls for a reckoning on the moral implications of creating lives only to doom them to a freezer or dissection have gone largely unheard.
When the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, corporate media and activists argued states would use Dobbs as an excuse to crack down on the fertility industry.
Yet, legislation designed to hold the baby manufacturing market accountable remains largely nonexistent or stagnant. Only three U.S. states — Louisiana Nebraska, and Michigan — ban commercial surrogacy. As of now, all 50 states allow the serial manufacturing of virtually unlimited embryos via IVF.
With the exception of the Protecting Families from Fertility Fraud Act, which aimed to criminalize the deliberate misrepresentation of DNA used to create children in labs, the 117th Congress barely encountered, much less voted on, legislation that would rein in the unethical practices used in the reproductive industry.
Bill sponsor Rep. Stephanie Bice, an Oklahoma Republican, told The Federalist she plans to reintroduce that legislation for consideration in the newly flipped House. But it’s a only small step towards the type of legislative attention reproductive technology deserves, especially because a coalition of Democrats, backed by various LGBT activist groups, is slated to reintroduce a bill designed to redefine infertility to include homosexual couples. Rep. Adam Schiff’s Equal Access to Reproductive Care Act doesn’t just protect the serial embryo manufacturing practices of IVF, it also gives legitimacy to commercial surrogacy by subsidizing it via a tax break.
In many cases, these practices encourage the fundamental redefinition of not just the family, but also what it means to be human. The fact that such problematic practices harm women and babies should deepen concerns about the expansion of the “reproduction for all” fertility industry. Instead, business is booming.
The desire to build a family is admirable, but how far are we willing to let people go to create life outside of natural bounds? Is manufacturing dozens of lives only to freeze them, discard them, or dismember them in the name of “research” really the best way to encourage family expansion? Is intentionally creating motherless and fatherless children good for society?
Statistics and science say no. Children who are born and raised by their married biological mother and father are more likely to lead healthier, safer, and better-educated lives well above the poverty line. Children who were commissioned by adults using donated gametes and a gestational carrier are automatically cursed by a biological distance and sometimes even possible brain structure alterations.
There are more than 1 million frozen embryos in the U.S. and hundreds of thousands more are expected by the end of the decade.
Were these lives bought and manufactured in a lab just to die in another one under the guise of “research”? Will adults always be allowed to create as many embryos as they want, even if they don’t plan to use them?
These questions aren’t just hypothetical. They raise issues with practices that have affected hundreds of thousands of people and are only growing more prevalent as the fertility industry expands.
The use of reproductive technologies sidelines the rights of children by prioritizing the desires of adults, regardless of the consequences. That leads to the unregulated buying and selling of biological matter, embryos, and wombs to make babies, transactions which make human existence seem dispensable.
Without address or oversight and as science advances, those problems will only get worse.