It has been said that men have been “endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness. Prima facie, the right to have children, who are arguably “bundles of joy”, should be a given, especially as today’s society strives toward egalitarian ideals of empowering those less fortunate. Even so, people are divided over the ethics of tampering with nature, and whether it would be hubristic to interfere with a process so intimate and wondrous that we would be “playing God”. Nevertheless, I believe that parenthood is a basic choice that every person should be afforded, and not have the choice denied them by mere circumstance. Everyone should be able to have children via artificial means.
From the beginning, artificial conception was meant to lend infertile couples the hope that natural circumstances have stripped away from them. It goes without saying that having difficulty conceiving is distressing and trying for couples. As denizens of the twenty first century, surely it would be incongruous with our modern sensibilities to deny our fellow man a safe and pragmatic means of having children, especially since humanity has it in our power to grant them what nature did not. Undoubtedly, ardently upholding their natural human right to raise a family would be the morally upstanding course of action.
In addition, artificial conception is an increasingly attractive option as couples are wedding later in their lives than in the past. It is a viable alternative to traditional methods of conception, as the latter might be biologically unwise for older couples. In countries with ageing and shrinking populations, technologies such as IVF and techniques such as surrogacy could provide couples with the ability to have children, in particular children with genetic affinity to them. Genetic affinity has been highlighted in a seminal case this year by Singapore’s highest court as a keenly and deeply felt basic human impulse to have children of their own. While the lack of genetic affinity may have been a barrier to parenthood for couples of advanced age in the past, conception by artificial means now serves as a powerful incentive for couples to have children and thereby repopulate the nation. In fact, Singapore has a thriving IVF market, and this could be attributed to strong government support for artificial conception in view of Singapore’s low fertility rate.
Furthermore, artificial conception is the only way for LGBT couples to have children with genetic affinity to them. By allowing people to have children via artificial means, society reaffirms its progressive stance towards a more inclusive future, where people of all lifestyles are welcome and diversity is celebrated. Recognising the prerogatives of the LGBT community is an important step towards bridging people of different backgrounds together. In doing so, society will become more harmonious and a better place for all.
Conversely, even as we acknowledge these admirable ideals, it would be absurd to throw caution to the winds. Increasing our reproductive options could have unforeseen consequences such as undermining cherished societal values and devaluing conception into a mere commercial product, another good that separates the wealthy from the poor, made obvious by the abundance of fertility clinics that have sprung up in developed countries.
There are fears, especially from the religious community, that artificial conception and birth may lead to an undesirable erosion of the moral fibre of society. In the research undertaken to make artificial conception a reality, an inevitable consequence was that tools were developed to select healthy embryos over those with genetic and chromosomal defects that could result in health complications. The downside risks of having babies via IVF are manifold, but chief among them is the increased likelihood of premature births. Premature births are the most common cause of infant mortality, and such infants are at greater risk for cerebral palsy, delays in development, hearing problems and sight problems. While the tools may have served their narrow scientific purpose of selecting the best embryos for the highest probability of success in conception, they serve another, far more insidious purpose. Parents may be inclined to choose characteristics for their unborn offspring, devaluing the worth of their child to that of a mere wish fulfilment of what they could not have, made manifest in the flesh. Even more alarming would be the normalisation of eugenics as acceptable in society. In the light of these dangers, perhaps it would be ill-advised to allow artificial conception.
Religious clerics have also pointed out artificial conception separates sexual intercourse from reproduction, and has even allowed for three parent children, through a process introduced in 2016 known as mitochondrial transplantation. They fear that this would debilitate the traditional two parent nuclear family structure and weaken the foundation of society even further, strained as it is by alternative lifestyles. Hence, artificial conception could be detrimental to society.
Moreover, since the private sector has monopolised the market for artificial conception, the resulting high prices prove a high hurdle for all but the rich to surmount. This has bred fears that wherewithal will be an even greater deciding factor in children’s starting point in life as now money can buy biological advantages on top of the traditional ones, further widening the inequality gap between the affluent and those with less.
In conclusion, artificial conception is a boon to society when utilised for its original function. However, the legitimate moral and religious concerns about its potential for harm are legion and deserve much deliberation and debate. Ultimately, as people become accustomed to artificial conception, their opinions will change, but it will be up to the authorities to decide what is right. It is to be hoped that under the benign influence of the good laws legislations and the sensible judgement of the government, that artificial conception will be deemed to be enough of an aid to those blighted by childlessness or disease such that its use will be permitted with close supervision.