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Amy Laura Hall


Better Homes and Children

The brave new world of meticulously planned parenthood.

While the nation engages in acrimonious debate over when life begins, the "suburban Washington, D.C."-based company GIVF is clear: "Life begins at the Genetics and IVF institute." This, GIVF's motto, runs through their advertisements for human ova, appearing in magazines across the country. GIVF recently ran a full-page ad on the inside back cover of the New York Times magazine, just opposite the "Lives" feature. The advertisement promises "Doctoral Donors in advanced degree programs, and numerous other egg donors with special accomplishments, talents, or ethnicity." GIVF also very helpfully offers both "Adult and Childhood Photos" of their donors. After all, "your decision has lifelong implications."

Designer babies? The Childbirth Center at Duke Health Raleigh Hospital recently ran an advertisement that unabashedly embraced this imagery, likening itself to a boutique. A petite young women in silhouette gazes at the window of a brightly hued shop, where three fashionable frocks hang on mannequins. The bold print reads: "finally, a childbirth center that's as stylish as you are." The smaller print continues, "In the world of hospital birthing centers, consider us the smart little boutique where you always find the latest thing (exactly in your size)." The last line concludes: "Just the place to find something perfect to take home with you."

Soon after entering the dubious field of reproductive bioethics, I began singing (to myself) David Byrne's "Once in a Lifetime." Surrounded by the various advertisements for procuring beautiful children to adorn beautiful houses I heard myself singing (in a rather irate voice), "How did we get here?!" and, more to the point, "My God, what have we done?!" Yet in the midst of my incensed little ditty, I have found myself also asking another question. Are we chugging up the biotech slope towards a qualitatively post-human world, or is this the "Same as it ever was?" This brave new world may be newly creepy, but is it really new? The project ...

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