Modern society, at the level of rhetoric, loves children "unconditionally." But at the level of reality, its indifference to them borders on the surreal. Society increasingly places bald conditions upon loving them: Are they wanted? Are they perfect? If not, abort them; if not, re-design them.
The post-Roe slogan "Every child a wanted child" had a eugenic frost on it, but now the slogan might as well be updated and made even more explicit to read: "Every child a perfect child." Few people seem to care or notice, but society is passing through a brutally eugenic period of history.
The latest news from Britain -- that scientists and couples in pursuit of disease-free children have developed an in vitro fertilization technique to produce "three parent kids" -- will probably generate yawns. It will be seen as just one more impossible-to-referee "ethical dilemma" teed up by an indifferent media to wash over the masses before they click to the next channel.
Apparently eighty "three parent" embryos died in the first trial, but that won't cause too much consternation in a culture of choice and control which accepts blithely all the grim experiments and ruthless selection that those words imply. The lead researcher in the trial has been quoted as saying casually, "What we've done is like changing the battery on a laptop." Such quotes make one think of Mary Shelley's withering take on the Enlightenment, Frankenstein, in which the real monster in the tale isn't the monster but the scientist.
This test run happened in the United Kingdom, but America is pretty far down this path too, having crossed the threshold of the total eugenics of designer children a while back.
Germline genetic engineering, which allows scientists to manipulate the genes of an embryo, is moving forward, as is preimplantation genetic diagnosis (PGD), which gives scientists the power to select the most desirable embryos for in vitro fertilization.
"These are grown-up people expressing their reproductive choices. We cherish that in the United States," Jeffrey Steinberg, a director of fertility clinics that specializes in designer embryos, told the press several years back. "These people are really happy when they get what they want."
The bewildered children of surrogate IVF techniques are less thrilled. In 2006, one of these children, Katrina Clark, wrote an angry column in the Washington Post saying, "We didn't ask to be born into this situation, with its limitations and confusion."
"We offspring are recognizing the right that was stripped from us at birth -- the right to know who both our parents are," she wrote. "When I read some of the mothers' thoughts about their choice for conception, it made me feel degraded to nothing more than a vial of frozen sperm. It seemed to me that most of the mothers and donors give little thought to the feelings of the children who would result from their actions."
One can imagine the "three parent kids" from Britain, should they survive, joining her ranks. In the years to come, psychiatrists will have to open up separate practices for the "identity issues" of surrogate IVF children, and Dr. Phil and Oprah will probably roll out very special episodes on their discontent.
Previous ages regarded the creation of orphans as cruel; this one considers it enlightened. While the New York Times and company inveigh opportunistically against child abuse in the Catholic Church, they steadily advance a culture that specializes in its more disguised and celebrated forms: the child abuse of abortionists, eugenicists, IVF scientists, and "safe school" czars.