Note: The following commentary contains sensitive information and may not be suitable for children.
If you haven't thought much lately about just how rapidly the very nature of the family is changing, consider this: It is now possible for a child to have five parents. That includes egg donor, sperm donor, surrogate mother, and the mother and father who raise him. It is not only possible, but for some children, it is a fact of life.
Washington Post reporter Liza Mundy explains this and much more in her book Everything Conceivable: How Assisted Reproduction Is Changing Men, Women, and the World. I cannot recommend this book strongly enough, especially for would-be parents who may face difficult decisions about childbearing in the near future.
Mundy is not writing from a Christian viewpoint or even from a pro-life viewpoint, but she covers the murky field of reproductive technology, and its effects on families, thoroughly and unflinchingly. And she takes seriously the ethical dilemmas that arise in a largely unregulated field where technology is changing rapidly—while most of those involved are still trying to figure out the moral implications.
Unlike the well-worn abortion debate, Mundy points out, she is describing a situation where parents desperately want children—and yet the very depth of that longing, when combined with the latest scientific advancements, can, as I have mentioned before on "BreakPoint," turn children into commodities.
The situations Mundy describes are startling. She writes about children who think of an unseen sperm donor as "Daddy" and long to find out if they look like him. She describes women who want children so badly that they will let an unscrupulous doctor transfer an excessive number of embryos to their wombs. And she witnesses "selective reduction" procedures where those mothers watch on a screen as one or two of their multiple fetuses are killed before their very eyes.
While sympathetic to the people she talks with, Mundy cannot help but notice the inherent problems. She acknowledges the irony of parents trying to select egg donors and sperm donors with the best looks and the highest intelligence—qualities they want passed down to their children—for the express purpose of building a family not based on genetic relationships. "Every day," she writes, "families are formed by parents trying to hold in their head the competing notions that genes, while important, aren't" important.
Mundy also sees how the emphasis on parents' rights can wreak havoc on the lives of children—to the point where she even hears some members of Planned Parenthood, of all people, uneasily wondering if they ought to start focusing more on children's rights.
The biggest irony of all, of course, is that a biblical worldview teaches us that there is no escaping the Creator's design for our lives and our families. Even those families doing their best to be different—homosexual couples, mothers who deliberately decide to exclude fathers, or couples trying to create "designer babies"—often end up trying to create a family as "traditional" and normal as possible.
Make no mistake: The desire for giving life is stamped on our souls by the Giver of life Himself—in whose image we are made. But as the book Everything Conceivable makes clear, when we try to remake things in our own image and on our own terms, we do a tragically poor job of it, no matter how sophisticated the technology.
Copyright © 2007 Prison Fellowship
BreakPoint is a daily commentary on news and trends from a Christian perspective. Heard on more than 1000 radio outlets nationwide, BreakPoint transcripts are also available on the Internet. BreakPoint is a production of The Wilberforce Forum, a division of Prison Fellowship: 1856 Old Reston Avenue, Reston, VA 20190.