Test-tube Babies

We’d seen them coming in Brave New World (1932), Aldous Huxley’s disconcerting picture of twenty-sixth century London.  Brave New World foresees a future of biological engineering and reproductive technology in which multiple births are gestated in a lab and then ‘decanted’.

Huxley was among the first to realise that reproductive technology would lead to bioethical issues. More recent science fiction works, such as Gattaca (1997) and The Island (2005) also focus on the impact of reprogenetic technology.  Such techniques may have the latent potential to alter the assumptions that lie behind existing systems of sexual and reproductive morality.

The world’s first factual test-tube baby was Louise Brown.  Born on July 25, 1978 and conceived through the then-new method of in vitro fertilisation (IVF).  Since Louise, ART (Assisted Reproductive Technologies) has been used throughout the world.  In the United States, 70 000 children have been born through ART, with 45 000 through IVF.

It is estimated that there are currently 400 000 frozen embryos stored in fertility clinics in the US alone.  Each of these potential humans awaits a decision.  Either the parent(s) will decide upon some date of future delivery, or the embryo will be kept in cryogenic suspended animation indefinitely.

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