Society is fascinated by a vision of genetic testing that would save the human race from its frail inclinations toward certain diseases. This vision is actively sought after in the offices of OB/GYN doctors. In fact, obstetric patients over age 35 often describe to me the pressure they feel from OB/GYN doctors who describe genetic testing as a routine, necessary prenatal test without ever mentioning the overwhelming purpose: to abort the baby if testing indicates he or she may have a handicap.
This process is called eugenics, the improvement of the human race through selective breeding.
G. K. Chesterton, a powerful preacher and writer at the turn of the last century wrote this in his essay entitled, "Eugenics and Other Evils." He said, "Eugenics itself, in large quantities or small, coming quickly or coming slowly, urged from good motives or bad, applied to a thousand people or applied to three, eugenics itself is a thing no more to be bargained about than poisoning."
Our sovereign God values life, as the Bible makes clear. Consider Psalm 127: 3-5, in which the Psalmist writes,
Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord,
the fruit of the womb a reward. (ESV)
and, in Psalm 139:15,
My frame was not hidden from you,
when I was being made in secret, (ESV)
Thomas Syndenham, a 16th century Christian physician described as the father of clinical medicine, wrote a physician's oath which bears his name. In this oath, he so eloquently writes,
Thirdly, and not more beautifully than truly,
let him [the physician] reflect that he has undertaken
the care of no mean creature,
for, in order that he may estimate the value,
the greatness of the human race,
the only begotten Son of God became himself a man,
and thus ennobled it with his divine dignity,
and far more than this, died to redeem it.
But not everyone recognizes God's sovereignty or values the life He has created.
In the UK, a couple has a new baby girl without the high-risk gene mutation for breast and ovarian cancers that have afflicted females in her father's family for three generations. Pre-implantation Genetic Diagnosis (PGD) allowed the doctor to accomplish this feat. Paul Serhal, the fertility expert who treated the couple, said, "The parents will have been spared the risk of inflicting this disease on their daughter."
It was easy. After fertilizing bunches of eggs in a dish, he let them grow to the blastocyst stage. Then he removed one cell, tested it for the gene mutation, found the perfect one, implanted it and let it grow. Now mom and dad have a new baby girl, practically perfect in every way.
What about her brothers and sisters who didn't pass embryo muster? Well, let's just say their three days of life were rudely interrupted. But there was no blood, no guts and no annoying trips to the abortion clinic. The doctor just rinsed them down the sink. Easy.
I've wondered what one would have to believe to be an ethical Petri-dish "rinser-outer?" What would define the ethics of a person willing to select the perfect embryo and discard the others?
I surmise one would have to believe in the absurdity of life and an absent or irrelevant God. One would have to deny a final accounting before a holy judge, acknowledge we are all we have as humans and insist that existential relativism defines life. One would have to hold that life has no value except the value placed on it by whoever has the money or power to use it or control it. One would have to believe in the value of genetically improving the human race.
Now, the parents of this designer child placed a value on her, so here she is, but no value on her siblings, so here they are not. Her doctor placed a value on a genetically superior child. (The money and fame probably didn't hurt, either.)
Make no mistake; breast and ovarian cancer are expensive, terrible diseases. Chemo, radiation, lost work, lost productivity, end-of-life care, hospice, ICU time—they all cost money. Patients with breast cancer or ovarian cancer face pain, despair and possible early death. So you may think reducing the risk of breast and ovarian cancer a valid argument for this type of genetic selection (and genetic de-selection). But before you decide, let's call PGD what it is—eugenics. That's an old term which means improving the human race through selective breeding or through elimination of the inferior.
Eugenics got its big push from the Darwinism in the 19th century, a belief which held to the idea that we were a random collection of parts put together by time and chance. Darwinism rejected our creation by the God of the universe. Belief in God became a fairy tale as I was taught in my medical training. (Delusional thought was abnormal except as it applied to religion.)
This eugenics concept captivated the progressives in the early 20th century, the most famous of these progressives being Margaret Sanger who wanted birth control or sterilization for the inferior (as she defined them) of society. The Holocaust quieted the push for eugenics until the advent of prenatal genetic testing. Today, eugenics has made a full comeback. Seventy to 90 percent of Down syndrome babies never see the light of day, but are aborted thanks to prenatal genetic testing. PGD
, however, expands genetic testing to an even greater new level, one without the mess and controversy of abortion to achieve its aim.
In his essay entitled, "Eugenics and other Evils," G. K. Chesterton wrote that eugenics is evil "because evil always takes advantage of ambiguity." In his time—like ours—many viewed eugenics as innocent and humane. To this idea he wrote, "But that is only because evil always wins through the strength of its splendid dupes; and there has in all ages been a disastrous alliance between abnormal innocence and abnormal sin."
PGD results in the loss of human life through a sink drain. This is an evil with its roots embedded firmly in Darwinism, atheism and all the horrors of the past eugenic experiments.
But I take solace in the word of God. In Hebrews 9:27, the Bible says, "And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment." All will face judgment. Those perpetrating this evil will be punished even if I don't live to see it. Meanwhile, God's family needs to be informed so we can pray for those caught up in this social malignancy, those who see no problem with eugenics. As followers of Christ who redeemed us and bought us with His own life, we need to defend life given us by God, from start to finish.
Salt and light, brothers and sisters. Salt and light.
Matt Anderson, MD is an obstetrician/gynecologist who has practiced for 28 years. He and his wife have four married children and 14 grandchildren. He is a member of the American Association of Prolife Obstetricians and Gynecologists (aaplog.org). He and his wife attend the Mounds View campus of Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis, MN. Dr. Anderson has written for WORLD Magazine (worldmag.com) and occasionally blogs at mdviews.wordpress.com.
Publication date: November 4, 2010