When First We Practice to Conceive

Baby-Making: What the New Reproductive Treatments Mean for Families and Society Bart Fauser and Paul DevroeyOxford University Press, 2011; 292 pages, $29.95 What does it mean to “make” a child? The title of this book is presumably a nod to the euphemistic meaning of the term, but with the twist that it invokes the idea of “manufacturing.” That association is intentional because Baby-Making is an introduction to the booming industry of “assisted” reproduction, another euphemism—along with “reproductive treatments”—that softens the cold reality of engineering human procreation apart from the conjugal act. The authors are fertility experts from the Netherlands and Belgium, respectively. The focus of their professional practices—in-vitro fertilization (IVF)—is the main subject of the book. Thus, artificial insemination and surrogacy receive relatively little attention. The idea of a commercial industry dedicated to “manufacturing” babies (and, of course, the attendant possibility that “customers” could presumably specify just what kind of product they are buying) raises a host of moral, ethical, social, and philosophical questions. The subtitle alludes to these reservations but the text itself gives only glancing notice to such concerns. It is not as though the questions, and their pressing practical implications, are not in plain sight. For instance, the ongoing debate over sex-selection abortions in the United States and Canada has brought to light an IVF clinic in Washington State that advertises in Canadian newspapers: “Create the family you want. Boy or girl.” The clinic uses preimplantation genetic diagnosis (PGD), a technique Fauser and Devroey spotlight, to ensure that they implant only embryos that fit parents’ preferences for the sex of a child. A story out of London describes a same-sex couple who are “devastated” that a child they created by IVF was genetically unrelated to their first child (also created
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