Can pregnant women be trusted to make moral choices?

In the near future it is likely pregnant women, or women seeking to conceive, will have the ability to make very finely grained genetic choices. If this comes to pass I fear that much of the genetic and physical diversity in the world will disappear. Many women will talk a good game about tolerance and diversity, but when it comes to their own bodies and babies you would be hard pressed to find a more deliberate, stone cold group of eugenicists.

This is not unexpected as women are wired at very primal levels to seek the fittest mate possible in their context, as their investment in reproduction is so high, and by extension produce the fittest children possible. If you give women the option to go beyond selecting out not only obviously dysfunctional physical factors like retardation etc., which should be controlled out if possible, and to make directing choices about sexual and attitudinal orientations, I fear much of the richness and variety of human life will disappear.

I think we need to consider, morally and operationally how far we are willing to go as a society in this direction. Pregnant, or seeking to become pregnant women, will eagerly grasp any tool that gives them more control over their babies physical destiny. If this degree of fine grained choice making becomes possible how far can we, or should we, involve ourselves as a moral society in this process?

You make astounding blanket statements in your OP. Do you have any polling data that would make your assessments of the desires of a majority of mothers-to-be anything other than paranoid musings on your part?

Well many people think pregnant women shouldn’t even decide if they want to continue pregnant… so I think letting them chose baby options will be a no no for the conservative bunch.

I think screening out illnesses and birth defects is a good thing. As for choosing hair/eye it might be fine too… after blue and blonde becomes the norm everyone will get tired of it… and then people will start ordering brown hair/eye kids again.

As for not having gay children things certainly get murky... especially if gay couples order a "gay" baby too.  :)   I agree that eliminating homosexuality might be a dangerous step. If we can determine political view too.... imagine ordering "liberal minded" or "conservative minded" offspring !

Something you didnt touch on... is the cost of the selection... which means that rich babies could start getting too much advantage over poor babies and basically create a perpetuating "rich class". Better genetics helping create better future adults that have more ability to be rich and so forth... while the poor become ever more poor and unable to afford the genetic selection.

I would think that the daddy/sperm donor would be the one to fear. Pregnant women are full of the “Oh I made life and it is good” hormone.
You possibly have a point with the seeking to be pregnant women, but I still think the male is the one more preoccupied with the urge to reproduce perfect progeny.

Most (not all) pregnant mothers, so far as I have been to observe as a husband, friend, godfather and acquaintance to many of them, are maximally concerned and focused on the health and fitness of their children, and will go to extraordinary lengths in taking care of themsleves, adopting various physical regimens, and using existing medical technology to insure this health and fitness.

If you give pregnant, or seeking to become pregnant women, the opportunity to make directing choices about their babies at a very fundamental level, do you imagine that there is any chance most women will not grasp this opportunity eagerly with both hands?

The “it is never your child until it is your child” kind of thought, I think that’s an interesting point but I don’t see why it would be restricted to pregnant women. The fathers would likely have strong desires to have a healthy child as well.

I assume you are implying much more than aborting/correcting fetuses that show congenital defects or diseases?

What kind of choices do you have in mind?

If you’re talking about, say, immunity to appendicitis, things which improve health but make no apparent difference, it sounds to me like you’re willing to disregard public health for the sake of unrealized diversity, which is silly to me.

If you’re talking about, say, hair and eye color, things which make apparent difference but don’t improve health, then not everyone likes the same thing, so don’t worry. I’m giving my kids cyan hair and yellow eyes.

Or did you have something else in mind, in which case how about an example?

While fathers may have this inclination, it is my belief that in practical applications of influencing the genetic direction of a proto-baby, only mothers will have (or be granted access to) practical operational control of the genetic direction. As the prime movers and decision makers in this process, I am focusing on the mother’s choices in this context. The father may certainly have an opinion and an influence in this process, but the mothers are the final decision makers.


Sexual orientation(s)

Pre-dispositions to be socially and/or behaviorally passive or aggressive

Intelligence levels that are somewhat too high or too low

Physical build - no skinnies or tubbies, no 6 foot tall women or 5 foot tall men.

Predispostion to mental focus and behavioral issues (ie ADD predispostions)

… among others

I think you should add “skin color” to that list. I did a research paper about a year ago on genetic counselors and learned that they’re already talking about the genes responsible for skin color. I doubt they can do anything about it yet, but it’s a future possibility (especially for mixed-race couples). And from what I’ve heard, they’re not talking about making the skin tone darker.

Am I the only one who read the thread title and immediately flashed on, “We could never have a woman President, because while she was on the rag, she might push the Big Red Button and start World War III…”?

“Can we trust women under the influence of their hormones to make Good Choices?”

Egad. It’s a giant step backwards! Pardon me while I go rustle up my Howdy Doody Lunch Box…

I’m sure we can count on alcoholics and moms on crack to preserve the wonderfully diverse tapestry of humanity.

It’s precisely the opposite point. The context of the OP question is not that women are too hormonal, but that pregnant women will have access to genetic technology tools, and be able to make highly rational, and fairly specific directional choices about what will and will not be part of their babies inheritance. The concern is that the ability to make these coldy rational choices about the best perceived fitness attributes for their babies will wipe out large chunks of the richness and diversity that these perceived non-optimal characteristics bring to the human table.

This is extremist, but I think the idea bears examination. Our diversity is Mother Nature’s little way of ensuring our survival in the event of some catastrophic event. If we go about selecting the hair, skin, and eye color of our babies…and their height and weight, we might breed out a group of people who are better suited to a drastic environmental change or something along those lines. Like I said, the odds of something coming along that a brown-eyed person is more likely to survive than a blue-eyed person are extremely low, but the point is we shouldn’t go messing about with our diversity, I think.

And at the risk of sounding sexist, I support astro’s assumption that the mother would be the ultimate decision-maker in the genetic alterations department. Men don’t have a say in abortion (I don’t think they should), it follows precedent that we (men) wouldn’t have a legal say regarding genetic alteration. That is for the most part, of course, I’m sure there would be legal disputes about who has rights over whom and who is mentally competent to judge these things and who isn’t…

IMHO, the OP was somewhat carelessly worded (risking the kinds of offense that indeed were taken), but the “deeper” issue is logical and well worth discussing.

Societies/cultures have preferences, some very overt, some implied. People who grow up in those societies absorb those preferences. It almost certainly has some effect on the choices we make. (I am not saying that preferences and dispositions have no other source than cultural conditioning, BTW.) Though I have not been a pregnant woman for 52 years and counting, there’s considerable plausibility to the claim that, when we learn to fine-tune the physical and mental traits of our unborn progeny, there will be winners and losers among those traits.

Tendencies to extreme variation from the norm re weight and physique and height will surely be weeded out. Baldness, too (in that a person with hair can easily choose to become visually bald, but the reverse is much more difficult). The sorts of things we term “birth defects,” as well as many plain old diseases, will be nipped in the bud; and I doubt anyone will listen to the “deafness is just another culture” lobbyists. People will keep all their teeth till death does them part; and I don’t recommend investing in the eyeglasses business.

Will the entire population become “conventionally beautiful”? Will we weed out, not just the Ann Coulters and Linda Tripps and the real ugly guy living a few doors down on my street (who runs around shirtless), but also Kathy Bates? Linda Hunt? George W. Bush? Golda Meir? Will future Joe Leibermans not get a hearing just because their jowls no longer remind anybody of a beloved grandfather?

As for so-called racial traits, I’m less concerned about color than about noses and butts and eye-folds. Many white aesthetes think black is sexy–if it looks like Denzel Washington. But the Al Sharptons (and Nelson Mandelas!) may be at a great disadvantage. The vaguely Euro-Western standard of beauty–or, better, “range of the acceptable”–surely dominates right now. I don’t see the Kim Jong Il look having much of a future.

Yes, people will want to have smart babies–but also compliant, obedient babies who don’t cry much. Nice fodder for a world dictatorship by MicroSoft-Disney.

Homosexuality? (See the movie TWILIGHT OF THE GOLDS.) Not as clear as all that. If parents had, say, 6 children, they might actually like having a queerboy or dykegirl. But if ZPG is the rule, few hetero parents would care to give either of their reproduction-tickets to someone whose desires they find difficult to identify with. (A countervailing tendency: open gays and lesbians having children on their own.)

I hate to say it as much as you hate to hear it, but if “diversity” has a value in and of itself–and I think it does–progressive thinkers are going to have to insist on something VERY counterintuitive: a certain amount of wombless baby-making under government control, with a measurable mandate to produce certain numbers of new people per year with “disfavored” traits. Think it’ll happen? Neither do I.

No more than we’ll have any luck trying to stop parents from bearing designer babies.

I’m a pregnant woman.

I think the question is simple, “Can we trust people to make moral decisions?”

In some cases, yes. In some cases, no.

I don’t see how being pregnant increases or decreases your liklihood of making moral decisions.

now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got to waddle off to pee and eat some more ice cream.

I’m sorry, I just don’t buy this line about the ruthlessness of pregnant women. Women may be driven by biology, but you’ve got your work cut out to convince me that’s any less true for men. There’s still the matter of free will, and I don’t think people are necessarily so intolerant. Not only that, but it’ll be a LONG, LONG time until all people have the ability to do something like this. When playing around with the genes of children becomes possible, it’ll be something only the rich can afford first. Plenty of time for diversity to continue.

By the way, homosexuality keeps coming up here lately, but the most convincing explanation I’ve seen so far indicates that hormones in the prenatal wash might be the most responsible for sexual orientation - that is, it’s determined in utero, not by genes. That would mean it’s mostly a question of the mother’s genes, not the child’s - meaning even if people wanted to get rid of homosexual children, I’m not sure they could.

Furthermore, I guess the verdict is in on “nature vs. nurture.” We’re convinced already that one’s political orientation is genetic?

women are wired to pick the fittest male?
ho ho, something sure went wrong with my wiring!p

In defense of whomever made the “wired to pick the fittest male” statement, I ask you what type of men are used in things geared to pick up the female demographic?

It’s been a while since I’ve heard a woman call Jon(sp?) Lovitz sexiest man of the year… :wink:

Here, here. A culture where men had the final say would have the same problem. I’m too lazy to look it up, but isn’t there a surplus of baby boys in China, due to restrictions on number of children and a cultural preference for boys?

I wonder which good traits are linked to “undesirable” traits. A few decades ago there was a probably spurious study that claimed IQ was inversely proportional to breast size. I wonder what other linkages people will jump on? It is very scary.

My kids were some of the last born where sex was not automatically known before birth.

Besides restricting abortion, what can we do? The only thing that comes to mind for me is to have a new code of ethics where genetic testing only reports on potential health issues, not cosmetic ones. That doesn’t solve the problem - what to do about genetic predisposition to diseases that will get manifested late in life? Would you have aborted Woody Guthrie?