genetic superbabies and abortion

OK. I’m starting this thread because honestly I do NOT know all the nuances of genetic testing or predestination and such.

But, do you think that with the advent of amniotic (I believe) genetic testing that the rate of abortions will increase…and as these tests get better and more accurate, that the rate of ‘frivolous’ abortions will spike dramatically?

At this point I can certainly understand if you do testing and your doctor says “well, this baby has severe physical deformities and will probably not live beyond the age of five.” If you’re a struggling family, if you’re ill prepared to deal with such a trial…I’m sure you’ll find very few people who will chastize your choice to abort.

But how far do we go? Do you abort a child who will be asthmatic? Who will have scoliosis? Who will be green eyed instead of blue like you’d hoped?

Do you think that perhaps these will give the ‘crazy’ pro-lifer’s more fuel?

And is there a point where certain abortions are more…acceptable than others?

I seriously don’t think abortion will ever become the main tool for eugenics. Given the way technology seems to be headed, if there is too be any artificial tampering/selection, I can see it happening on the pre-conception/implantation side of things rather than waiting until the pregnancy has begun.

For instance, I’m sure in the not too distant future, prospective parents will be able to get their genes analyzed for risks to certain diseases/conditions. You could then extrapolate to testing for eye-color, etc. I suppose you could even create several embryos as they do for artificial insemination and then do a genetic test on those, implanting only the most desirable ones.

But even that will be impractical for all but the very affluent.


I don’t think there will be a dramatic increase, at least not at first. Primarily I don’t think most people would go through the trouble or expense of having their child tested to see if his characteristics match their specifications.


Yes, it would give us more fuel, but I pray it never comes about.

There is and it even exist today. I know staunch pro-choicers that oppose partial birth abortions and I myself, though I am very much pro-life, would not criticize an abortion if it truly meant the mother would die having the baby and I would regretfully understand if a women could not carry to term a child conceived through rape.

‘Frivolous’ is obviously a subjective term. I think it is safe to say aborting because of eye color would be considered frivolous by most people but as you suggest the gray area for this would be quite large.

Certainly if abortions due to information from genetic testing become a reality I’d imagine sooner or later someone will get one that anti-abortionists hail as ‘crossing the line’. Of course, anti-abortionists feel all abortions are inherently wrong anyway (with some extremists feeling even saving the life of the mother isn’t sufficient reason). How deciding to have an abortion just because a woman feels like it is worse than having an abortion based on more concrete evidence of some abnormality I’m not certain.

I just want to clarify that by putting ‘crazy’ in quotes before pro-lifers that I don’t believe all of them are crazy. I am referring actually to clinic bombers and ridiculous zealots.

Just want to cut that off at the pass.

This doesn’t take into account the way people feel about their babies. There’s usually a strong connection between mother and child, and IMO few women fail to develop it. While some people would perhaps be disappointed to learn that their child would have blue eyes instead of green, the desire to protect the child will usually override any feeling of disappointment. At the present time, we are able to distinguish male from female through ultrasound, yet you don’t hear of many women having late abortions because they’ve found their baby is the wrong gender (and some people are really worked up about this; I know a lady who is expecting son number 4 and is absolutely shattered that he’s not a girl).

I’m not saying that no one will do this, but I think the inbuilt attachment to the unborn child will save many from their parent’s superficiality.

I think this is a frighteningly complex issue that will never be settled to anyone’s satisfaction. I for one woud not have a strong objection to people who abort children who have deformations/illnesses/disorders that impair their quality of life and place an extra burden of care onto the family, but many would be horrified by that. I just feel that some seriously affected children would have been better off if they’d never been born like the hypothetical deformed child in the OP who will die by age 5. I know many would consider me a monster for that opinion, while others would think that it was an invansion of personal freedom to be told that they cannot abort a child because it’s going to have Grandpa’s huge nose rather than Grandma’s more attractive one.

Until they manage to make abortions far less painful—something I doubt they could do, judging from my ex-gf’s experiences (one of the few times I had a real empathetic pain response!)—the use of abortion as a means of correcting for relatively minor congenital defects seems particularly unlikely.

But this is based on the standard hoover abortion method (i.e.—the vaccuuming of the uterus). How successful other methods may be, like pills and such that can work later in the pregnancy, is something worth considering.

of course, sympathetic would be the word I should have used. Not having a uterus I couldn’t really grasp the nuances of that pain, but I did feel pain. :frowning:

erislover - my friend had an abortion under a general anasthetic, and felt no pain at all. Her entire physical commitment to this procedure was about one day - the day after it was done she said that not only did she feel great, but she felt better than she had two days earlier. I was surprised at how quickly she (physically) recovered. I’ve known a few women who’ve had terminations, but all have had a general anasthetic and so none have reported pain during the procedure.

Hmm, I’ve known two that have had them and felt great pain for two days (one of which was the day of). I’m confused here.

Perhaps not here in the US but in India this very thing is not uncommon. In fact India had to place a ban on sex determination tests to prevent widespread abortion of female babies. Screwing around with the male/female ratio like that has some pretty serious social conseqences… none of them pretty.

Don’t know whether you consider Catholic bishops to be “crazy” pro lifers ;), but here is what they have said on genetic testing as it affects dignity of life issues.

Beagledave, got a cite for that thing? The quotes look accurate; I just want to know what I’m looking at.

Aside: when my mother was pregnant with me (way back when Mark Hammil was making his big screen debut), her physician suspected that I might be retarded and raised the question of whether I should be aborted. Mom, being an ardent pro-lifer, rejected that outright, and here I am, normal as a Doper can be.

(Of course, the first time Mom told me that story, it spooked the hell out of me for weeks.)

Hasn’t abortion and post-birth abortion already become a major method of eugenics in countries that have one-child policies?

I think however that this testing will cost money, and will end up being more the domain of the section of society that wants just “one, perfect [by their criteria] child” and no more no less, so as not to disturb their lifestyle.

It will be a perspective shift on (a) having a designer child, =object to preen and pamper, or (b) bringing a unique, individual, unpredictable person into the world.

Things like blue/green eyes are one thing, though, and things like asthma another. If asthma was gene detectable, and your family had a history of extremely severe, even fatal asthma, then it would be a medical choice rather than an aesthetic choice not to bring such a child into the world.

So my question is where is the line drawn between aesthetics and medical choices? What if the asthma isn’t going to be fatal or severe but bothersome and you and your husband love camping so much you can’t give it up.

It seems to me that yes, to pro-lifers, all abortions could be construed as unnecessary, but to some pro-choicers, the only consideration is the mother and how she feels about it.

I guess I’m wondering if there will ever be a point when even the most adamant of pro-choicers will say “wow…even I can’t agree with that.” Because right now I have a personal line in my mind. I’m just curious if this line will ever change with some of you…

i’m doing a really poor job of phrasing my question, and I apologize for that.

How about China? Forget about pre-testing and abortions. If a family had a girl they very well might take her outside in the wilderness a ways and leave her to die. With China’s restrictive population controls families feel that if they are only allowed to have two children they should be boys which they consider more valuable. I think this has caused quite a lopsided generation to develop but I’m not sure what, if anything, China is doing to correct that imbalance.

Anyway…it puts to rest the notion that people won’t harm their children due to some mystical (mythical?) bond.

I draw no line, as a pro-choicer. Whatever reason one has one should be able to abort the fetus, granting that societal structure isn’t in danger of failing because of it (as in the case of aborting females because of their value in society when there is no society without females).

The line I draw is one based on pragmatic assumptions that, in this case, people are aborting their fetuses not because they don’t want a child, but because they don’t want this child. Because of that, if there is no danger of social destruction as a consequence (or reasonable inference of consequence) of this practice (that is, we achieve a male to female ratio of 70% or something absurd, not that people would simply be up in arms about the abortive practices which is a seperate matter IMO) then the practice shouldn’t be illegal.

No problem with aborting on the basis of sexual orientation then? I’m not sure what you mean by “societal structure”, but if you are referring to procreation terms…then what’s the harm is aborting gays? (assuming a specific genetic marker(s) was found)

Note to ResIpsaLoquitor, the quote comes from the hyperlinked page in my post (the word “here” is a hyperlink)

Leave China and India out of it. You can’t really compare the situations. In China, your chance at a happy afterlife is contingent on you having sons capable of performing the necessary rituals. Girls cannot honor the ancestors. Furthermore, boys are your social security in your old age. Your daughters will be taking care of their husband’s parents - you need your own daughters in law to take care of you. There is far more wrapped up into needing sons - religion, security, family line (and they mean far more than a son to carry on the family name), in some cases survival - the risk of starvation is very real in parts of China and India - than we understand here.

I think a genetic superbaby would definitely win against a bald eagle.

(For those who think I’m completely insane: see this for an explanation )