Lesbians: We made our baby deaf on purpose.
by James Langton in New York
A deaf lesbian couple have admitted deliberately creating what are believed to be the world’s first designer handicapped babies.
The two women tracked down a deaf sperm donor to ensure that their daughter, who is now five, would inherit the same inherited hearing disabilty that they both share.
The couple were so pleased with the result that they have just had a second child, called Gauvin, using the same technique. Doctors who examined the boy say he is completely deaf in one ear and has only partial hearing in the other.
In an interview with the Washington Post, the women - Sharon Duchesneau, who gave birth, and Candace McCullough, her lesbian lover - say that they believe deafness is “an identity not a medical affliction that needs to be fixed”.
They were so desperate to have children who share their handicap that the women asked their local sperm bank to provide a deaf donor, but were told congential hearing loss immediately disqualifies candidates.
Instead they turned to a deaf male friend for help, producing what they call their first “perfect baby” - their five-year-old daughter Jehanne. Before their son was born, the women said: "A hearing baby would be a blessing; a deaf baby would be a special blessing.’’
Both women, who are in their mid thirties, belong to a radical school of thought that believes deafness is a “cultural identity” not a handicap.
They want their children to share the same “experiences” including learning, sign language and going to special schools for the deaf.
They also consulted a “genetic counsellor” before getting pregnant who told them that with Miss Duchesneau’s background, that includes four generations of deafness on her mother’s side, any child conceived with a deaf sperm donor would have a 50 per cent chance of having the same handicap.
After their daughter’s first hearing test, the couple wrote happily in her baby book: "Oct 11, 1996 - no response at 95 decibels - DEAF!’’ Their daughter attends a special kindergarten for children with hearing problems.
After tests on their baby son showed he also had severe problems, they decided against giving him a deaf aid in the one ear that still has some hearing, saying they will leave the decision to him when he is older.
The couple’s behaviour has appalled children’s rights groups in the United States. The conservative Family Research Council said their decision to “intentionally give a child a disability” was “incredibly selfish”.
The council’s spokesman, Fred Connor, said: "These women are taking the idea of creating so-called designer babies to a horrible new level.’’
Even a leading member of the American National Association for the Deaf, Nancy Rarus, said she “can’t understand why anyone would want to bring a disabled child into the world”.