The second concern, as expressed in the Journalarticle, is that “Critics fear genetically vetting embryos can be used to create so-called designer babies.” Ah yes, designer babies, the Frankenstein fear the media has been mongering for years.
“If embryos can be selected to be free of harmful genes, they [the unnamed critics] argue, who is to say they will never be screened for particular genetic traits that parents might desire or want to avoid?” notes a 2009 article in the Telegraph. “Enter the ‘designer baby’ who is destined to be top of the class, excel in sport, and have hair, eyes and other physical characteristics that fit his or her parents’ wish list.”
But designer babies are “a whole lot of media hype without a lot of science,” writes former embryologist Carole Wegner on her blog Fertility Lab Insider. “Frankly, we don’t know which genes to pick, if we could pick them and how and when to turn them on etc etc. And even if we could … there’s this little thing called environment and self-determination that would foil that game plan.”
The designer baby argument is actually a close cousin to every argument about abortion: Women are morons who approach childbearing as one would approach picking up some milk at the store. As if it’s nothing, tee hee, let’s pick out the baby’s eye color like we’re getting a puppy! Let’s chuck out all the embryos that won’t be good at soccer!
Trust me on this, as somebody who spent ten years trying to have a baby and fully six in infertility treatment: By the time you have been briefed on everything that can go wrong with you or a developing pregnancy, by the time you have spent untold amounts of money (either yours or your insurance company’s) on doctors and tests, by the time you are staring down the tunnel of IVF protocols which involve multiple injections of multiple horrifying drugs several times a day, you do not give a flying fuck what kind of hair your baby will have or if it will display proficiency in math.
Your only concern at that point is that you’ve been unable to get or stay pregnant because there’s some kind of hideously scary disease lurking in either your or your partner’s genes, or because the combination of the two of you somehow creates something poisonous. Your only concern is that your child might not be able to be healthy, and that even if you can carry him or her to term, you’re creating a future full of pain.
This isn’t something anyone does on a whim. The one thing the article doesn’t mention is the cost of genetic testing. It runs into the thousands and insurance doesn’t cover it. If you’re doing this, if you’re down this rabbit hole, you have more serious concerns than wanting to determine what instrument your science fiction baby will play someday.
But for the crowd that wants to regulate women’s health care, pass personhood amendments that would wind up suppressing or outright denying IVF treatment altogether, and generally treat ladies as if we have no idea how our own bodies work, it’s so much cuter to think of us flipping through a catalog, buying a rug on one page and a baby on the next.