What Kind of Choice?

It used to be in the realm of science fiction. Not anymore. Designer babies are one step closer to reality.

A U.S. company, 23andMe, has received a patent for a process that could be used to choose babies selected on the basis of genes that will increase the probability of certain physical attributes. Of course, the elimination of disorders and diseases is also touted as a benefit. For now, the company promotes the tool as, as they say, “a fun way to look at such things as what eye color their child might have or if their child will be able to perceive bitter taste or be lactose tolerant.”Biotechnology If the phrase “slippery slope” applies anywhere, it applies here. It’s a short step from playing a game to making choices that affect real life.

The word choice has been closely associated with the subject of babies in our nation. “Pro-choice” advocates espouse the right of women to choose to take the life of their baby before the baby is born. Choosing the traits of the baby they decide to keep is nothing by comparison.

But what are we choosing? Our culture moves from fad to fad. Names fall in and out of favor from year to year and generation to generation. Will the same thing happen with hair color? Eye color? Short or tall people? Isn’t that what the Third Reich attempted? Under a despicable dictator, a program was initiated to create a blond-haired, blue-eyed Aryan race. A race free of anything that could be called a defect.

So what will happen when our culture moves from playing a game to making “harmless” choices about eye color to finally eliminating any potential for less-than-perfect babies?

Consider these quotes:

“You measure the degree of civilization of a society by how it treats its weakest members.” ~ Winston Churchill

“The moral test of government is how that government treats those who are in the dawn of life, the children; those who are in the twilight of life, the elderly; those who are in the shadows of life; the sick, the needy and the handicapped.” ~ Hubert H. Humphrey

If we eliminate babies with physical limitations—if we even consider their elimination—what does this say about our society? Our compassion? Will the elimination of the elderly be next? Will we deny care to those who are born with diseases or “defects”?

Technology may provide the ability to do something, but morality determines if we should do it. Our society has already crossed that line with abortions. The sad thing is that anything else seems tame once our culture has determined that killing babies is acceptable.

I recently attended a fundraiser for our local crisis pregnancy center. Babies are dying before they can take their first breath outside the womb. Mothers and fathers learn—too late—the horror of what they’ve done, and then live with crippling regret. But there are those who are working on the front lines to save lives. One mother at a time. One father at a time. One baby at a time. Because, despite what our culture says, it’s the right thing to do.

Photo courtesy of Nancy DeMott

Photo courtesy of Nancy DeMott

Martin Niemöller, a German theologian and pastor, said this about the Third Reich—words quoted by the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum:

First They Came

First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.

Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

The choice is not about eye or hair color. It’s about life. Period.
Speak up for the babies. For the parents. For our nation.
If we don’t, someday, there will be no one to speak up for us.

Science and Morality

Remember the Six Million Dollar Man television program? Lee Majors played a former astronaut with bionic implants. Among other things, he could run faster and see farther than any other human being (until the advent of the bionic woman!).

FrankensteinOr maybe you’re familiar with the classic movie, Frankenstein.  Upon learning his experiment is a success, Dr. Frankenstein exclaims, “It’s alive! It’s alive!” However, you may not be familiar with the following line, cut by censors when the film re-released in 1934: “Now I know what it feels like to be God!”

What was once science fiction, fantasy, or even horror less than 100 years ago is now being implemented in laboratories and hospitals around the world. Yes, science has developed wonderful advancements in our medical care. Many illnesses which shortened life have been eradicated. Surgical procedures stem the progression of diseases once thought to be terminal. Organ transplants have provided hope for millions who once had no hope.

Still, while science gives us the ability to do some things, morality tells us whether we should do them. For example:

  • Scientists in Oregon have created embryos using the genes of one man and two women. The stated goal is to prevent babies from inheriting certain incurable diseases.

But could this DNA alteration be the first step to “designer babies,” where parents choose their child’s sex, height, or eye color?

  • Embryonic stem cell experimentation is being conducted to see how embryonic cells might cure diseases. But in order to collect these cells, the embryo – a baby – must be destroyed. Embryonic stem cells have yet to provide successful treatments.

But adult stem cells, which can be obtained from bone marrow, blood, and other sources, has already been used to provide treatment for people suffering from more than 70 different conditions. Even better, no one has to die in order to harvest these cells – unlike embryonic stem cells.

  • The emotional debate over abortion has divided our country as both sides argue over when life actually begins. Bible verses such as Psalm 139:13, “For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb” are ignored by our society or dismissed as the rantings of fanatics.

But what about babies outside the womb? According to a Planned Parenthood representative during a hearing in Florida, the fate of babies born through botched abortions should be left up to “the woman, her family and the physician.” When a lawmaker noted the baby would then become a patient, just as the mother, the representative responded, “That’s a very good question.  I really don’t know how to answer that.”

How could anyone say the status of a baby born alive is the equivalent of an unanswerable question?  For those who would protest that killing babies born alive would never happen, the ongoing trial of Dr. Kermit Gosnell proves otherwise. His charges include the murder of seven infants who had the temerity to be born alive.

Has it really come to the point that we should do something just because science says we can? Or because society says we can? Just because someone dressed in a white coat or with a string of letters after his/her name says something is right doesn’t make it right. Leaving such determinations up to individuals eliminates an objective, absolute standard of right and wrong. The result is a society much like what is described in the book of Judges where “everyone did what was right in his own eyes” (Judges 21:25).

Without a moral standard established outside of ourselves, our society will descend into moral chaos…and that’s just not right.

What do you think?

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