Thursday, May 17, 2007

Another sign of the End?

My wife is fond of saying, when something outrageous crosses our path, "Well, that clinches it. The End is near." Well, with respect to recent news out of Britain, I think she may be right.

A British company is marketing a pregnancy test that will tell you, even before the sixth week of pregnancy, the sex of the fetus. Now, I ask you, what can be the possible point of this? Oh, I know the usual answers: The company's is the lamest. They say that this will help the potential parent/s get a jump on shopping for gender-appropriate clothes, wall coverings, and the like. (And if you buy that, well, have I got a deal for you.) I've not heard anyone yet raise a more reasoned argument: There are certain genetically transmitted diseases and disabilities that are gender-linked, and early detection of the gender of the child may help with early intervention to deal with the potential issue. (I'm really dumb about genetics and medicine, so I don't know whether there can be any such intervention before six weeks.)

But let's be honest: The primary reason for this test is to allow people to learn early on the gender of their coming child so that they decide whether they want to keep a child of that gender. Even though the company is not marketing their kit in -- say -- China or India, where boy babies are much preferred, I cannot help but see that area of the world as a real cash cow for them. And in the more "developed" areas of the world, this will be yet another manifestation of the culture of choice.

We are rapidly moving in the direction of designer babies: Choose the hair color, the height, the body structure. Why not the gender? Learn early enough and rejecting a bad roll of the dice is much easier than later.

Call me paranoid -- you wouldn't be the first! -- but can't see any good's coming from this development.

And on a related note, has any of you engaged in conversation about this or other biomedical ethics issues with your faith families? We're not doing it at my church, and I think it may be time.

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