The Designer Family: Putting a Dollar Value on a Little Girl
Over at Acculturated this week editor Emily Esfahani Smith highlights a disturbing development, the rise of services that help couples choose the gender of their baby. Couples are paying tens of thousands of dollars to make sure they have girls (the reverse of what we commonly see in China and India), and are heartbroken when they end up with a boy:
Simpson was inseminated with the slower sperm that same day. Fifteen weeks later, she asked a colleague at the hospital to sneak in an after-hours ultrasound. The results felt like a brick landing on her stomach: another boy.
“I lay in bed and cried for weeks,” said Simpson, now 36, whose name has been changed to protect her privacy. She took a job in the operating room so she would no longer have to work with women who were giving birth to girls.
Even more disturbing is her reaction when she finally did get her baby girl:
“My husband and I stared at our daughter for that first year. She was worth every cent. Better than a new car, or a kitchen reno.”
Aside from the obvious hints at eugenics that can be seen here, what does this say about how we view children? From the high rates of abortions of babies with Down syndrome or other disabilities to choosing the sex of our babies, are we beginning to view our kids as accessories? As "things" meant to bring us happiness? When parents are paying to make sure the baby they have is the one they want, it really is like buying a new car or renovating a kitchen. It's a purchase. It puts the child on the same level as the little chihuahua Paris Hilton carried around in her purse: a designer object meant to be used as a status symbol or to make the parent feel good.
And where do we go from here? What if we could choose our children's eye color, hair color, height? Would we? The reason this is disturbing is because it allows parents to play God... to engineer perfect children, and toss out the not-so-perfect ones. Along the way, would we lose our humanity as well?
Science may allow us to create designer babies, but that doesn't mean we should.
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