Science has reached a new level of morally questionable technology. A few weeks ago, the world’s first “three parent baby” was born in Mexico.
The baby is a result of a massive amount of genetic construction and was originally engineered in an attempt to avoid a genetic disease known as Leigh Syndrome, which is passed on through the DNA of the mother. The end result of this treatment is to maintain the biological connection between mother and child, while eradicating the fatal disease.
Breitbart Tech featured an interview with the surgeon responsible for this procedure, doctor Dr. John Zhang:
The technique is not approved in the United States, but Zhang told the magazine, “To save lives is the ethical thing to do.”
However, Dr. Zhang was not saving a life or curing a disease. He was just ensuring that a baby with a risk of a particular genetic disease was not born in the first place.
What are the motivations and implications of the fertility industry in all of this? UK researchers estimated that 10-20 families per year might use the technology, and maybe 80 in total once it becomes commonplace. This indicates a very small demand for this technology from people with mitochondrial disease. If they were the only people to whom this service could be marketed, the business would not be lucrative enough to justify the funds spent on perfecting the technology. It is more likely that the fertility experts can see the potential for a wider market.
Breaking news from this week, regarding the advances in this procedure, confirms that this ‘preventative’ genetic construction is now being utilized as a fertility treatment. According to an article in the New Scientist:
The first babies to be created using a “three-parent” method to overcome their parents’ infertility are due to be born in early 2017. New Scientist has learned that two women in Ukraine are both more than 20 weeks pregnant with fetuses created using such a technique.
The babies would be the first born to women who had the procedure to treat infertility, rather than to prevent hereditary disease, but some have criticised this approach, calling for it to be banned until there is more evidence that the embryos it creates are healthy.
Sadly, such an advance in the world of science and medicine is another consequence of changing the marriage law. The technology can be used by a lesbian couple to have a child who is biologically related to both of them. As more countries legalise same-sex marriage, there will be increased pressure to make this technology available to same-sex couples, meaning the market will expand and there will be greater demand for the technology (and money to be made) from those wanting to create children with a biological connection to two women.
However, the road does not end there. A piece this week in The Huffington Post covered a new advancement in fertility research with potential to create children with biological connection to two men:
Imagine a world in which women without viable eggs are able to have babies using eggs created fresh from cells of their own skin. Or how about one in which two men can father their own biological child ― one with DNA from both dads.
We’re not there yet, not by a long shot. But in what Nature magazine is calling a “tour de force of reproductive biology,” scientists in Japan have succeeded in turning mouse skin cells into mouse egg cells and then using the eggs to grow normal mouse pups.
These advancements in science and technology are another example of the consequences of changing the marriage law. Not only are such methods unnatural and ethically contentious, but they raise the question: How will this affect the children of Australia? How does it inhibit their rights, especially their ability to access all of their biological roots? How do we know whether this procedure is safe for the children it is creating? Unless Australia takes a stand for traditional marriage, more of these morally questionable practices will become commonplace.