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Tuesday, 25th January 2011

Reproductive Rights and Reproductive Technology in 2030

Reproductive Rights and Reproductive Technology in 2030

Source:  Brookings Institution

Larry, a pediatrician, and David, a wills lawyer, meet in their late 20s, fall in love, and marry on June 15, 2025 in Indianapolis. Three years later they take in a foster child for eight months, and find the experience rewarding. By 2030, they are well-enough established in their careers to think about having their own child. Larry’s 24-year-old sister Marge has agreed to donate her eggs, and David will provide the sperm, so that each partner will have a genetic connection with the child. They work with an agency that matches couples with gestational surrogates, and settle on Janice, a 34-year-old nurse and mother of two, who is willing to help them in exchange for a $75,000 fee.

In the process, Larry and David come to realize that they would prefer to have a male child that shares their sexual orientation. Reproductive cloning won’t do—the FDA hasn’t yet certified it as safe and effective.  But gene studies show a strong correlation between five genes and sexual orientation in both males and females. Larry and David discuss with their doctors the feasibility of screening the embryos they create with Marge’s eggs for male genes linked to a homosexual orientation. The clinic doctors are experts in embryo screening and alteration, but cannot guarantee that the resulting embryos will in fact turn out to be homosexual. To increase the certainty, they will insert additional “gay gene” sequences in the embryos before they are placed in Janice.  Embryos not used will be frozen for later use or for stem cell technology to create eggs from Larry’s skin cells so that the resulting child would be the genetic offspring of both Larry and David.

The scenario painted here is futuristic, but only partially so. The techniques to be used—IVF, egg donation, and gestational surrogacy—are now widely available, as is embryo screening for genetic disease and gender.  Same-sex marriage is likely to be soon recognized as a federal constitutional right.  No “gay genes” have yet been identified. But genomic knowledge is mushrooming. The genetic code for nonmedical traits such as sexual orientation may be unlocked in coming years. Altering a person’s genes by inserting or deleting DNA sequences is still theoretical, but great progress has occurred with animals.  Cloning is unlikely to be available by 2030, but producing gametes from somatic cells in a person’s body might by then be feasible.

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