Reproductive Technology and Ethics: Interesting recent questions

Reproductive technology is offering us amazing new abilities to build families. Single women, LGBT couples, infertile couples, gay men. Surrogates, gestational carriers, sperm donors, egg donors, embryo donors. Birth families involved in adoption. All become part of our family-building communities.

In recent days I’ve heard from a woman who is moving in with another Choice Mom as she prepares for her own journey, using a good friend’s gay brother as donor… A woman from an ultra-conservative religious community who has the support of her network… and a young woman who is trying to save up for her own home and adoption.

Of course, the choices can lead to decisions and policies that aren’t always easy. As recent stories remind us, reproductive technology and ethics are sometimes discomforting bedfellows…

Egg freezing

Apple and Facebook are two companies in the news recently because, as part of company health benefits, they are offering egg freezing coverage to women employees in order to enable them to work more years before pausing to have children.

As one Choice Mom responded: “Interesting benefit, but probably short-sighted. Would they rather have pregnant employees, or 40-something employees going through IVF and THEN pregnancy?”

One blogger brought up another good point: “It could be viewed as an easy way around offering more flexible working-hours for parents, and a means by which the development of a supportive, family-friendly work environment is able to be sidestepped.”

I will be writing more about egg freezing in the near future that addresses some of the concerns raised in this viewpoint, “Is Egg Freezing Dangerous?,” written recently for New Republic.

Genetic Testing

“60 Minutes” recently did an excellent article about the types of diseases we can now screen for prior to IVF transfer of embryos, using pre-implantation genetic diagnosis. Choice Mom sponsor GenePeeks was featured for its new business that offers screening for sperm donors prior to a client’s selection.

A woman who had a 50-50 chance of passing on a cancer gene to her children talked to “60 Minutes” about the questions they struggled with: “Was it right? Was it the right thing to do? Is it playing God? Is it ethical? And the more we learned about it and got comfortable with the idea, it was like, ‘Yes, absolutely.’… It’s not just my children. It’s their children and my grandchildren and great grandchildren. Forever and all for time, in my bloodline.”

Please watch this interesting, and controversial, story here.

And don’t forget about our Choice Mom E-guide to Genetics, sponsored by GenePeeks (which includes a discount coupon for Choice Moms), which explains much more.

Wrong Sperm

A sperm bank ships out the wrong vial and a biracial child is born to a couple who wasn’t intending for that to happen. Does the couple sue the bank? In one case, with Midwest Sperm Bank, yes, and it becomes a media story.

Women on the Choice Mom discussion boards and Facebook page have weighed in on all sides. Will it do harm to the child to someday read headlines about being part of a “wrongful birth,” with $50,000 sought for the bank to get counseling and relocate to a more racially diverse neighborhood with good schools? Is it right to hold the sperm bank more accountable for making a mistake? Will the child’s biracial status impact her more than being the child of a lesbian couple in an apparently conservative Ohio town?

Aisha is one Choice Mom who articulated her position well: “I blame her attorney, he should have never allowed this to go public for the sake of what is in the best interest of the child. I also blame him for not phrasing the issues correctly in the complaint. This is a negligence and breech of warranty contract issue. There was no need to put anything else in the suit. Everything else that is mentioned is to prove that there was a burden that warrants damages paid. And I hope the judge throws that right out. Because no amount you think you will get from this will repair the damage you have done to your own child.”

Chryssa said: “I can see how 330 and 380 would look very similar when written by hand or a number of typefaces. I think it’s okay to sue in this case in order to force better protocol on the clinic and get a little financial help should they need to move to a different area. I would continue using the same donor for siblings, though.”

Crystal added: “Why exactly will she will need therapy? Just because she is part black in a white home? Or is the money for the parent’s therapy since they are so upset she isn’t white? I understand wanting to make them have a better system, but is getting $50,000 necessary for that?! They should just be happy they have a healthy happy child!”

This is an excellent blog response on the subject, brought to my attention by our friends at The Sperm Bank of California.

Age Factor

Every once in a while a fight breaks out on the discussion boards, and language gets nasty. Unfortunately, it happened again recently — first in a long while at least — when a woman innocently wondered “how old is too old?” One response came from a woman who was thinking of having a third child at age 48. Another responder raised the point that, herself one of the oldest parents among her childrens’ friends, she wouldn’t want to recommend that a woman be well into her 60s when her child graduates from high school.

Whatever viewpoint you agree with (and I personally will be exactly 60 when my youngest graduates, but we know a lot of parents the same age in our community), it does beg the question: should age be a factor? even if we can become parents later in life due to reproductive technology (and in some cases, private adoptions), does that mean we should?


So… those are just a few of the ethical questions we tend to face in this brave new world. Who do you think the gatekeepers should be about how we build our families, and with whom, and with what technology?

— Mikki Morrissette



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