Reproductive technology has advanced leaps and bounds within the past 20 years: infertile couples are now able to have children through IVF, parents are able to analyze traits in genes that influence a child’s health, height, intelligence, hair, skin and eye color and athletic ability, they are even able to select or deselect the types of genes or fetuses they want. Even our idea of what is a normal or acceptable age for women to give birth is being challenged: not too long ago, a grandmother even gave birth to her own grandson. Now even more technological advances are on the horizon, which will transform the definition of natural and unnatural, ethical and unethical, moral and immoral.
In Aarathi Prasad’s new book, Like A Virgin: How Science is Redesigning the Rules of Sex, she describes the “ultimate solo parent” of the future: a woman who doesn’t need a man, a husband, or even sex to reproduce the child she wants. She will be able to use her own stem cells and an artificial Y chromosome to produce healthy new eggs and sperm at any age. She also won’t let age hinder her if she doesn’t want to carry the embryo in her own body; it can just gestate in an artificial womb, which would act as a highly evolved incubator.
This may sound like some crazy sci-fi movie but it isn’t far from becoming a reality in our modern world. Scientists have already reproduced a mouse by mixing the DNA/stem cells of two females, and, in Japan and the U.S., scientists are on the brink of creating artificial wombs. In the not-so-distant future, women might have the capabilities to reproduce a children without men, without sex, and without any age limitations.
But women wouldn’t be the only ones to benefit from these possible reproductive technological advances. The Guardian’s Kira Cochrane writes, “The same field of technology would enable gay couples to have children created from both their DNA, and make it just as easy for a man to become a single parent as a woman.”
But, is this natural? Is this moral or ethical? For Prasad, future capabilities will challenge society’s definitions of natural and human. She tells The Guardian: “There are a lot of things animals do that we can’t, like flying and camouflage, and we’ve adapted, through technology … It’s funny when people say something is natural, or not. Compared with what? Compared with when? It’s this vanity of humans to think of themselves as special, as being at the height of evolution. We’re not. We’re obviously still adapting.”
In the past 15 years, the definition of family, marriage, and parenthood have drastically changed but with Prasad’s hopes for the future they will change even more, creating more single parent homes, more termination of “unwanted” fetuses grown in a lab, and a greater diversion away from the way God designed the family and reproduction to function in Genesis 1-3.
What are your thoughts on the future of reproductive technologies? Does it make you excited for the opportunities for women and same-sex couples, in the next 50 years? Does it seem weird or unnatural? Or, do you feel like you’re going to have to adjust your definition of natural, ethical, and morality to the new norms in our society?