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March 04, 2009

Designer babies: Blue eyes, with dimples on the side

Baby And you thought Octo Mom was a fertility nightmare.

If you haven't heard, a clinic in Los Angeles called The Fertility Institutes is touting a new (actually "Coming") service of genetic testing in which potential parents can select not only their baby's gender but also eye color, hair color and more. Seriously.

Can you supersize that for me, too?

According to a statement on their website (which was curiously taken down after I wrote this): "For the first time ever, patients having genetic screening for abnormal chromosome conditions in their embryos will be able to elect expanded testing that can greatly increase the odds of achieving a healthy pregnancy with a preselected choice of gender, eye color, hair color and complexion, along with screening for potentially lethal diseases, screening for cancer tendencies (breast, colon, pancreas, prostate) and more."

What started out as screening for things like, you know, cancer has now become something that sounds like one of the reasons we got into World War II. It's like the Frankenstein combo of Aryan Nation meets Fast Food Nation. What the heck are we coming to?

Delving into the ethics of genetic manipulation is tricky, I'll admit. Messing with nature is something we should do at our own risk, but there are coherent arguments out there for screening for devastating conditions such as cancer and mental retardation. What you do with that knowledge, in the end, is up to you. But screening for green eyes vs. brown eyes, for blond hair vs. red seems petty at best and criminal at worst.

To begin with, this might sound naive, but one of the things I looked forward to when I was pregnant was finding out what kind of person was growing inside of me -- what she would look like, what she would act like, what decisions she would make on her own. To determine that myself, before my little embryo even had the chance to multiply into a dozen cells, seems tyrannical and something that would go a long way toward robbing my child of her humanity.

Not only that, but why would we encourage a technology that's inherently discriminatory? In the looks department as well as the money department. Who are the people that will be able to afford this? It doesn't take a Ph.D in genetics to figure that one out.

People have expressed outrage that a young woman with no job and six children could be implanted with eight embryos in her quest to apparently combat loneliness. I'm all for forging ahead scientifically and intellectually for the good of our society. But at what point is society moving backward in its attempt to move forward?

Call me old-fashioned, but my daughter is the most miraculous thing that's ever happened to me. I knew that before I saw the blond hair, before I saw the brown eyes. Heck, before I even knew she was a girl.

An original Los Angeles Moms Blog post.

When Laura Clark isn't marveling over her daughter's unique sensibilities, she's writing about their explorations around Los Angeles at L.A. Story.

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