GOOD

Your Baby, No Sex Required

The director of Stanford Law School’s Center for Law and the Biosciences says sexless reproduction could soon become not just a reality, but the cultural norm.

Say a couple wants to have a baby, but they’re infertile. Or they have a weird genetic disease. Or they’re gay. Or they aren’t a couple at all — a single parent just wants to go it alone. Right now, these would-be parents have three options: IVF, adoption, or surrogacy. All three are terrific methods, but they’re also imperfect: inconvenient, expensive, and risky.

Soon these practices may become more obsolete. According to Henry Greely, director of Stanford Law School’s Center for Law and the Biosciences, we’re only 20 years away from couples birthing the babies of their dreams. To do so, women will simply need to give scientists samples of their skin cells. From there, the cells will turn into eggs, then hundreds of embryos — allowing parents to choose which baby they’d prefer to grow in the womb. No sex required.


Greely knows the title of his new book, “The End of Sex and the Future of Human Reproduction” (Harvard University Press, 2016), sounds like science fiction. But he’s confident enough in this new technique — which he calls “Easy PGD” (shorthand for the comically scientific term “easy preimplantation genetic diagnosis”) — that he predicts sexless reproduction will soon become not just a reality, but the cultural norm.

If he’s right, how society conceives of sex, reproductive rights, and the very idea of “family” could be about to change forever. Here, Greely prepares us for the future:

Why is now the time to talk about sexless reproduction?

People have been talking about selecting babies for a long time, but it was always theoretical. Once you can cheaply review all the genetic information and once you can easily and cheaply create eggs, everything changes. Both technologies — cheap genome sequencing and induced pluripotent stem cell — are progressing enormously and attracting lots of money for reasons that have nothing to do with reproduction. When they come together for reproduction, I think they will change our world. They will change our species.

Won’t there be political and cultural resistance?

It will be used first by people who are infertile. There are people absolutely desperate to have genetic children but can’t because of a childhood disease, a birth defect, an accident, cancer, or age. That’s a huge and very politically attractive market. Nobody will want to tell people, “I’m sorry, but we are going to ban the procedure that would let you, who had testicular cancer in your youth, become a genetic father.”

But I think it will spread as more people become confident that it is safe. One to two percent of babies have a serious genetic disease. How much is it worth as a parent to avoid that one- to two-percent risk? If, as I expect in the long run, the process becomes free, then I think we’ll see lots and lots of parents choose this as the way they want to conceive their babies.

You say this will cost nothing to parents. How?

Providing it will save the health care system money. Sick babies are really expensive. Time spent in the neonatal intensive care unit can cost over a million. It will be to the advantage of government-run health care systems as well as private insurers to make Easy PGD free in order to avoid the births of really expensive babies. It will also, of course, be a public health advantage to diminish the amount of human suffering, but I’m not even counting on insurers to care about the amount of human suffering. I do expect them to care about the amount of money.

Is there a right to reproduce in the United States? Where have reproductive technologies transformed into rights?

In much of the world, IVF has changed from a new technology into a right. Denmark has a very high IVF rate. Israel has a high rate. [In those countries], it was covered by national health insurance and became a right, but at the same time, they limit it. In France, IVF is covered by the national health care system, but you can only use it if you are a heterosexual couple in an established relationship. In Italy, you can’t use it if you’re a woman over a certain age. In the United Kingdom, you can’t use a PGD for anything other than specific diseases permitted by a government agency.

On the other hand, IVF is almost completely uncovered by insurance in the United States. There’s a basic, important distinction in our constitutional law: the difference between a positive right and a negative right. A negative right is a right to have the government not interfere with you. We don’t view fertility as a positive right — as something the government will pay you to do or guarantee for you — but we’ve been almost entirely hands-off in preventing it.

[quote position="full" is_quote="true"]That’s a dangerous path for the government, to say some lives are worth living and some aren’t.[/quote]

What impact will this have on people with disabilities?

First, most disabilities are not the result of genetics. They’re the result of infectious diseases or accidents. There will always be people in wheelchairs, even if we were to eliminate the genetic causes of being in a wheelchair. Having said that, to me intellectually and emotionally, the disability contexts for this are the hardest. I remember at a conference I put on about PGD, one of the panelists had spinal muscular atrophy, so she was confined to a wheelchair. She was in her late 20s, a very bright woman, a Stanford graduate, and she basically said, “What you are saying is that I shouldn’t have been born.”

I surely didn’t want to say that. I said, “No, I’m saying your parents in the future would have a choice about whether you were born with a disease.” She said, quite accurately, “Me without a disease is not me.” And that’s right. There’s a very real psychologically stigmatic and symbolic effect that a technology like this will have on people with disabilities. Then there are very concrete potential effects. Let’s say Down syndrome becomes much less common. What does that do for research into Down syndrome? What does that do for social support?

These questions, for me, are the very hardest. Ultimately it is true that from disability and from suffering, wonderful things can come, but we can’t guarantee that wonderful things will come from suffering. What we can guarantee will come from suffering is suffering.

Maybe if we eliminated genes that lead to people with manic-depressive disorder, we would have lost Vincent Van Gogh, but then maybe he wouldn’t have committed suicide as a young man. And for every manic-depressive who is a Van Gogh, there are hundreds of thousands whose suffering is not redeemed by genius or experience.

This technology sounds like a eugenicist’s dream. Will it be used as a coercive tool?

I don’t have nightmares. I don’t think we’re going to require everybody to use this and to only transfer embryos [whose genes] predict above-average intelligence. Outside the U.S., I could see that happening — not in a lot of countries, but in some. But in the U.S., I can see us doing coercive things that might be borderline. I could see a state passing a law saying you can use this to detect really serious early-onset diseases but not other diseases. I think that’s a dangerous path for the government, to say some lives are worth living and some aren’t.

I don’t think coercion is always a bad idea. I’m in favor of the IRS, or at least taxation, which is coercive. But when it comes to picking the traits of my kids, my strong preference is to let the parents decide. They’re the ones who are going to have to live with the best decision and who are most likely to have the kid’s best interests at heart.

If you were in a position 20 years from now to start a family with Easy PGD as an option, how would you decide whether to use it?

First, I would talk very seriously to the person with whom I was trying to make a baby. When my wife was pregnant with our first child, she got a prenatal diagnosis to find out whether the fetus would turn into a baby with Down syndrome. I was unsure whether I wanted to know that, but she was the one who was pregnant. It’s a negotiation. I suspect our ability to influence a future child’s behavior will be pretty weak, so I would ignore that. “Oh, this embryo has a 53 percent chance of being in the top half of math ability.” That’s noise.

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via Thomas Ledia / Wikimedia Commons

On April 20, 1889 at the Braunau am Inn, in Upper Austria Salzburger located at Vorstadt 15, Alois and Klara Hitler brought a son into the world. They named him Adolph.

Little did they know he would grow up to be one of the greatest forces of evil the world has ever known.

The Hitlers moved out of the Braunau am Inn when Adolph was three, but the three-story butter-colored building still stands. It has been the subject of controversy for seven decades.

via Thomas Ledia / Wikimedia Commons

The building was a meeting place for Nazi loyalists in the 1930s and '40s. After World War II, the building has become an informal pilgrimage site for neo-Nazis and veterans to glorify the murderous dictator.

The building was a thorn in the side to local government and residents to say the least.

RELATED: He photographed Nazi atrocities and buried the negatives. The unearthed images are unforgettable.

For years it was owned by Gerlinde Pommer, a descendant of the original owners. The Austrian government made numerous attempts to purchase it from her, but to no avail. The building has served many purposes, a school, a library, and a makeshift museum.

In 1989, a stone from the building was inscribed with:

"For Peace, Freedom

and Democracy.

Never Again Fascism.

Millions of Dead Remind [us]."

via Jo Oh / Wikimedia Commons

For three decades it was home to an organization that offered support and integration assistance for disabled people. But in 2011, the organization vacated the property because Pommer refused to bring it up to code.

RELATED: 'High Castle' producers destroyed every swastika used on the show and the video is oh-so satisfying

In 2017, the fight between the government and Pommer ended with it seizing the property. Authorities said it would get a "thorough architectural remodeling is necessary to permanently prevent the recognition and the symbolism of the building."

Now, the government intends to turn it into a police station which will surely deter any neo-Nazis from hanging around the building.

Austria has strict anti-Nazi laws that aim to prohibit any potential Nazi revival. The laws state that anyone who denies, belittles, condones or tries to justify the Nazi genocide or other Nazi crimes against humanity shall be punished with imprisonment for one year up to ten years.

In Austria the anti-Nazi laws are so strict one can go to prison for making the Nazi hand salute or saying "Heil Hitler."

"The future use of the house by the police should send an unmistakable signal that the role of this building as a memorial to the Nazis has been permanently revoked," Austria's IInterior Minister, Wolfgang Peschorn said in a statement.

The house is set to be redesigned following an international architectural competition.

Communities
Center for American Progress Action Fund

Tonight's Democratic debate is a must-watch for followers of the 2020 election. And it's a nice distraction from the impeachment inquiry currently enveloping all of the political oxygen in America right now.

For most people, the main draw will be newly anointed frontrunner Pete Buttigieg, who has surprisingly surged to first place in Iowa and suddenly competing in New Hampshire. Will the other Democrats attack him? How will Elizabeth Warren react now that she's no longer sitting alone atop the primary field? After all, part of Buttigieg's rise has been his criticisms of Warren and her refusal to get into budgetary specifics over how she'd pay for her healthcare plan.

The good news is that Joe Biden apparently counts time travel amongst his other resume-building experience.

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via Mike Mozart / Flickr

Chick-fil-A is the third-largest fast food chain in America, behind McDonald's and Starbucks, raking in over $10 billion a year.

But for years, the company has faced boycotts for supporting anti-LGBT charities, including the Salvation Army, the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, and the Paul Anderson Youth Home.

The Salvation Army faced criticism after a leader in the organization implied that gay people "deserve to die" and the company also came under fire after refusing to offer same-sex couples health insurance. But the organization swears it's evolving on such issues.

via Thomas Hawk / Flickr

The Fellowship of Christian Athletes explicitly announced it was anti gay marriage in a recent "Statement of Faith."

God instituted marriage between one man and one woman as the foundation of the family and the basic structure of human society. For this reason, we believe that marriage is exclusively the union of one man and one woman.

The Paul Anderson Youth Home teaches boys that homosexuality is wrong and that same-sex marriage is "rage against Jesus Christ and His values."

RELATED: The 1975's singer bravely kissed a man at a Dubai concert to protest anti-LGBT oppression

In 2012, Chick-fil-A's CEO, Dan Cathy, made anti same-sex marriage comments on a radio broadcast:

I think we are inviting God's judgment on our nation when we shake our fist at Him and say, "We know better than you as to what constitutes a marriage". I pray God's mercy on our generation that has such a prideful, arrogant attitude to think that we have the audacity to define what marriage is about.

But the chicken giant has now decided to change it's says its charitable donation strategy because it's bad for business...Not because being homophobic is wrong.

The company recently lost several bids to provide concessions in U.S. airports. A pop-up shop in England was told it would not be renewed after eight days following LGBTQ protests.

Chick-fil-A also has plans to expand to Boston, Massachusetts where its mayor, Thomas Menino, pledged to ban the restaurant from the city.

via Wikimedia Commons

"There's no question we know that, as we go into new markets, we need to be clear about who we are," Chick-fil-A President and Chief Operating Officer Tim Tassopoulos told Bisnow. "There are lots of articles and newscasts about Chick-fil-A, and we thought we needed to be clear about our message."

RELATED: Alan Turing will appear on the 50-pound note nearly 70 years after being persecuted for his sexuality

Instead, the Chick-fil-A Foundation plans to give $9 million to organizations that support education and fight homelessness. Which is commendable regardless of the company's troubled past.

"If Chick-Fil-A is serious about their pledge to stop holding hands with divisive anti-LGBTQ activists, then further transparency is needed regarding their deep ties to organizations like Focus on the Family, which exist purely to harm LGBTQ people and families," Drew Anderson, GLAAD's director of campaigns and rapid response, said in a statement.

Chick-fil-A's decision to back down from contributing to anti-LGBT charities shows the power that people have to fight back against companies by hitting them where it really hurts — the pocket book.

The question remains: If you previously avoided Chick-fil-A because it supported anti-LGBT organizations, is it now OK to eat there? Especially when Popeye's chicken sandwich is so good people will kill for it?

Lifestyle
via Gage Skidmore / Flickr and nrkbeta / flickr

The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) dropped a bombshell on Tuesday, announcing it had over 900 emails that White House aide Stephen Miller sent to former Breitbart writer and editor Katie McHugh.

According to the SPLC, in the emails, Miller aggressively "promoted white nationalist literature, pushed racist immigration stories and obsessed over the loss of Confederate symbols after Dylann Roof's murderous rampage."

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Politics