This morning I was reading an article from a few years ago about how ethical it is to choose artificial insemination in order to pick the “gender” of a child. There were a lot of presumptions in the article. Some of the highlights include:
- There are two sexes, corresponding to two genders, which are based on the chromosomes XX or XY. (Apparently people who are trans, intersex, or otherwise not fitting into that rigid structure do not exist.)
- Eugenics is not a serious ethical concern. We don’t need to think/worry about it. (On so many levels, WTF?!)
- Pro-choice people “see no principled objection to all PGD” because the only principle concern is whether or not pre-implanted fetuses are considered children. (See previous assumption highlight.)
- Class issues are not connected to an ethical debate (Because a costly, not likely covered by insurance, medical procedure limits the people who could use it, and that isn’t an ethical issue at all. Nope.
As I read through this article, part of my brain was screaming “Gattaca! Gattaca!” I admit, probably not the most logical response. The author was right in that we tend to get caught up in what “could be” instead of dealing with the ethical situations of the moment. But the entire article was so chock full of bullshit assumptions, and missing so many arguments, that his one redeeming moment is completely overshadowed.
First of all, there are not two genders, based around two chromosomes. Actually, it isn’t even directly the chromosomes that determine the physiological characteristics of a child. Not to mention, there are plenty of people like myself who regardless of birth assigned gender, are NOT that gender and are working to change their body as a result. So, pretty much anyway you slice it, the author’s head needs to be rather removed from his ass in order to realize that no, he is basing much of his argument on false claims. (As a side note, that I sadly cannot cite because I do not recall where I read it, but apparently the demand for girls has dramatically outpaced the demand for boys at clinics. He claims it to be otherwise, but gives zero citation for that fact. Not like I can find my citation either… But figured it was worth a mention.)
My biggest “wft” moment of reading the entire article though was the quote “PGD is ethically controversial because it involves the screening and likely destruction of embryos… those who view the early embryo as too rudimentary in developement to have rights or interests see no principled objection to all PGD.” The only thing I left out of this quote was how anti-choicers who believe embryos to already be children endowed with rights have huge issues with PGD. Unsurprising. And the author is right that I do not see the embryos as being developed enough to have interests or rights. But the phrasing it so that there could be zero other “principled objections” to PGD is bullshit. Maybe he was attempting to get the question of rights out of the way, except that is not how it was phrased.
Maybe I’d give the author the benefit of the doubt if he didn’t keep doing things such as saying “They might reasonably argue…” without ever addressing the arguments themselves. If he is going to attempt to defend the ethics of something, he needs to put forth the arguments in support of that claim. Just saying they exist is not sufficient. Great, so there is an argument (or many) out there for PGD. Tell me them? But no, nothing of the sort happens.
The author completely ignores any wider than the family itself response to PGD. He did not address a wider community effect, other than saying that we shouldn’t worry about what the future may enable us to do, because we can’t do that yet. So, only engage with the present ethical dilemma. And there is value in holding the debate about current ethical situations rather than debating about a nebulous future. Except, he didn’t engage the current issues!
Class problems with PGD were not mentioned at all. The author never addressed the major problem of access to this procedure, saying it should simply be the decision of the parents (when not made from a sexist standpoint.) But a large number of people cannot afford to pay for it. This is one reason why my brain started screaming “Gattaca!” over and over. Creating the ability for the higher class individuals to alter the genes of their kids, removing illnesses, selecting for gender, or even perfect pitch? I’m sorry, that is an ethically discussion that the author seemed to completely miss even existed.
As did the entire question of genetic selection. The entire article had a huge underlying assumption that other than the objection relating to destruction of embryos, there is nothing seriously wrong with genetic selection. The author functions in a purely libertarian philosophical outlook, where the individual choice, preference, and liberty of the parents are all that matters. Know what? I love individual choice, I’m really big into liberty, and I feel both of those to such an extent that I’m rather anti-statist. But know what else? I’m also rather a bit of a communitarian. No, these are not incompatible, but they inform each other.
The conditions that PGD currently targets are already some ethically sealed deal. First of all, anything can be debated ethically. But using the tactic of pretending something doesn’t exist when it is a major deal still is bullshit. A lot of it comes from ableism, the very basic assuming that certain diseases, conditions, etc. makes someone have “less” of a life, and investing in these very expensive medical attempts at prevention rather than dealing with society and making it more likely for more people of different abilities to have the same rights, privileges and opportunities as everyone else. Because know what? The genetic potential for something does not mean that will happen. It is a potential, a possibility, and even if it does that doesn’t justify eugenics. Curing something? Certain things yes, but plenty of things don’t need a cure. Homosexuality for instance, does not need a cure. Trans people don’t need a cure, unless it is getting our bodies right, but we got needles, pills, and surgeries for that (though FtM bottom surgeries have a long way to go still.)
Gah. I’m done. I really can’t keep thinking about this. I thought it was bad enough when I was reading through the eugenics section of Mad In America, but no, I’ve had to go on and read more. Least I have tomorrow’s AwaA to look forward to, with lots of delicious sex. And yes, that adjective was very intentional.
Article: John A. Robertson, “Extending Preimplantation Genetic Diagnosis: Medical and Non-Medical Uses,” Journal Of Medical Ethics, vol. 29, 2003.