Over the last century, the link between sex and reproduction has weakened. Feminist activism, aided by technological advances, has given middle-class women in the United States widespread access to effective contraception and safe, legal abortion. Although far too many exceptions persist, for large numbers of women, sex today has no necessary relationship to childbearing. Meanwhile, a burgeoning fertility industry has, for thousands, taken baby-making from the bedroom to the laboratory.
In vitro fertilization (IVF) does not merely help the infertile to procreate; increasingly, it allows parents to determine the genetic makeup of their offspring. Initially, preimplantation genetic diagnosis (PGD) targeted severe childhood diseases, such as Tay-Sachs and sickle cell anemia. Now, more parents use it to screen out genes for late-onset, treatable diseases, such as colon cancer; sex selection is also popular. According to a 2006 survey conducted by the Genetics and Public Policy Center at Johns Hopkins University, 42 percent of 137 IVF-PGD clinics allowed parents to select for gender. Scientists predict that parents will be able to choose such characteristics as blue eyes or curly hair. Less certain, but plausible, is that sci...
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