March/April, 1998 Volume XII Number 11

The Reproduction Revolution

by Scott B. Rae. Ph.D.

Imagine that you and your spouse are one of thousands of infertile couples in the United States. You are in the office of an infertility specialist in your community and are faced with a dizzying array of new reproductive options. These include fertility drugs, artificial insemination, "test-tube" babies in which conception is achieved in the lab, and donors for eggs, sperm and wombs. There are also expensive and very sophisticated technologies such as sperm injection and prenatal genetic testing, both of unborn children in the womb and those redefined as "pre-implantation embryos." You come home more confused about which option to choose than when you entered the clinic.
You talk to some of your close friends to see if they have any advice for you. One of your neighbors is a Catholic couple who advises you not to interfere at all in the natural process of procreation. They insist that God ordained the process from creation and that you should not tamper with it, either to stop it through artificial birth control or to enhance it through artificial reproductive technologies. They tell you that your options are either to keep on trying naturally , consider adoption, or consider childlessness and get on with your lives. Most of your other Christian friends have not thought much about this, since they have had no problem having children. Some of these friends are more sensitive than others to your situation.
You then decide to see your pastor to see if he has any other insight for you. He is not an expert in reproductive technologies, and he explains to you that God set up marriage as the context for procreation in the Genesis account of creation. He then points out that there were a number of arrangements that appear to have violated this creation norm of procreation taking place within permanent, monogamous, heterosexual marriage, such as surrogate motherhood (Genesis 16,30), divorce (Deu. 24), and levirate marriage (Ruth 3-4). He is not sure about some technologies that use the genetic materials of husband and wife. He is not that comfortable with technologies that involve third party contributors to procreation, such as egg and sperm donors and surrogate mothers. You leave his office having narrowed the field, but with many other questions too.
As you think about these technologies, you start noticing how frequently these technologies appear in the newspaper and other news outlets. You hear of gay and lesbian couples using these technologies to "procreate." You read about post-menopausal women having children through egg and sperm donors. You hear the number of abortions being done as a result of the information gained from prenatal genetic testing and wonder if parents are expecting the perfect child. You can't help but read about the prospects of human cloning and wonder if science fiction has become reality. You read about the awful scenario in which an aborted female unborn child became an egg donor for an infertile couple. You wonder what these reproductive technologies are doing to society's concept of the family.
The Center for Bioethics and Human Dignity in Deerfield, Illinois is holding the fifth of its annual conferences in bioethics to address the complex and timely issues of the reproductive revolution. The conference will be held on July 16-18 on the campus of Trinity International University and will feature nationally and internationally known health care proffessionals, theologians and bioethicists such as Christopher Hook, M.D.of the Mayo Clinic, Tom Elkins, M.D. and Joe Mcllhaney, M.D., Gilbert Meilander, Ph.D. of Valparaiso University, Teresa Iglesias, Ph.D. from the University of Dublin, Joni Eareckson Tada, and John Kilner, Ph.D. and Nigel Cameron, Ph.D. from the Center for Bioethics and Human Dignity. They will address issues such as "The Need for a Perfect Child," "The Drive to Have a Child Like Me," controversial possibilities such as human cloning and surrogate motherhood, the use of donor eggs and sperm, and the definition of the family. The high point of the conference will be a mock trial entitled, "Reproduction on Trial: The Case of the Elusive Embryo." The conference promises to be very helpful in sorting out the complexities of the reproductive revolution from a biblical perspective. For more information call 1-800-417-9999 (U.S. only) or 1-847-317-6550 (Outside the U.S.).

Making Baby
Breast cancer, abortion, and the pill
The Reproduction Revolution