We’re about to enter into a bio-technological revolution that will fundamentally change how children are conceived, gestated, born—-and understood. The science is advancing rapidly. Of equal important are social attitudes. A recent Pew study shows that the American public is largely accepting of this revolution. Few object to stem cell research (22 percent). Even fewer object to in vitro fertilization (12 percent).
The next stage of reproductive innovation may run into a “yuck” response that slows it down. Most people don’t like the idea of rented wombs. The idea of cloning gives many the creeps. But such responses won’t be decisive. Many are opting out of the traditional mode for having children, which is relatively early marriage. The men who opt out retain the option of marrying at age fifty to someone young enough to have children. This is not true for women. As a consequence, the argument will be made—-is being made—-that advances in reproductive technology are necessary for gender equality. And of course the same holds true for gay couples. Still further, why should a single woman or single man be denied children just because of their singleness?
Our society is committed to relationship and family “diversity,” and that will mean a commitment to allowing technical solutions to the sorts of limitations facing those who opt for non-traditional relationships and families. This is very likely to fundamentally change the origins, meaning, and status of children. Or perhaps more accurately it will accelerate the trend already in place that treats children as luxury goods that ornament the complete life of high achieving professionals.
Christian teaching stands against this trend toward radical technical interventions into reproduction. The polling data suggests that we need to do a better job explaining why.