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Future of ‘Designer Babies’ Debated as the World’s First Test Tube Baby Turns 40


This week marks the 40th anniversary of the world's first IVF baby.

The Midwest Reproductive Symposium International is celebrating this scientific landmark with a birthday bash in honor of Louise Brown, the world’s first baby born of In-Vitro Fertilization.

Brown, a British subject, was born only 5 pounds 12 ounces.

Four decades ago she was heralded as the world’s first test-tube baby.

This mother of two claims “Her birth created shockwaves for the church, politicians and the medical profession.”

Brown adds that her birth thrust her into “the center of the debate about the morality of In Vitro Fertilization (IVF) while also being a beacon of hope to millions of childless couples throughout the world.”

Dr. David A. Prentice, vice president and research director at the Charlotte Lozier Institute thinks the IVF debate is still raging today.

According to Prentice, this anniversary is “a time for reflection and a realization that this has been a mixed blessing with unintended consequences.”

The positive side of IVF as seen by Dr. Prentice is “several million little babies made it into the world over the last 40 years, lives that would not have been lived but for the technological ability to create human life in the laboratory.”

However, Prentice adds there is a darker side to even successful IVF processes. 

“Many times a number of their siblings did not survive to birth, or were discarded, or were placed in a frozen stasis in cryofreezers with their fate uncertain. Millions of younger human lives have been sacrificed in scientific experiments, destroyed to extract their embryonic stem cells - which have still not saved any lives in return for the sacrifice," Prentice elaborated

Dr. Jeffrey Steinberg, founder of Fertility Institutes says despite the low points, IVF has made a significant impact on the lives on infertile couples.

Steinberg, a premiere reproductive endocrinologist- says scientific discoveries have grown leaps and bounds but admits “In the early days of IVF we knew absolutely nothing in advance of the health of these new embryos that were being produced as we hopefully returned the embryos to hopeful parents to be.”

He surmises that this scientific breakthrough advanced by leaning on both faith and hard work to achieve success.

According to Steinberg “Prayers at that time, combined with a strong belief in the power and accuracy of the science we were conducting has now led to the almost total elimination of "untreatable" infertility in men and women.”

According to Live Science, some five million babies have been born worldwide, due to IVF and other reproductive measures.

So what’s the future for IVF?

Dr. Steinberg thinks the future is bright with possibilities for infertile couples and those concerned with genetic health issues.

“Watch for advances in the prediction of more and more cancer markers, Alzheimer’s risks, autism prevention and more. The science will continue and we look back fondly at the evolution of a science that brings joy to couples on a daily basis and reinforces the value of allowing scientists to contribute to the health and well-being of all," he explained to CBN News.

But Dr. Prentice, a celebrated biochemist argues that the future may not be that bright as there are many moral issues at stake.

Prentice reminds us what happens to the “embryos” who do not make it to full term.

There are successful births, however, “Others have been manipulated and destroyed in experiments in human cloning, attempts to create 3-parent babies or gene-editing experiments.”

He goes on to shed light on the grey areas and legalities the world must address.

“A very few nations have grappled with using IVF technology while still trying to respect and preserve all human life, but for the most part modern society has considered such lives a commodity, working to improve the manipulation of young life to produce the desired baby, and disregarding the lives destroyed in the process," Prentice told CBN News.

Dr. Jeffrey Keenan, President and Medical Director of the National Embryo Donation Center agrees this new science of IVF has a lot of grey areas which require prayer and thoughtful guidance.

Some critics warn in a world where parents are selecting the gender and eye color, wise counsel is necessary.

Celebrities like singer John Legend and Sports Illustrated model Chrissy Teigen came under fire for opening up about choosing the sex of their baby.

According to People magazine, the supermodel who suffered from infertility for years reportedly said this about her embryos: “I've made this decision... Not only am I having a girl, but I picked the girl from her little embryo. I picked her and was like, 'Let's put in the girl.'"

While advocates like Dr. Steinberg celebrate these advances, Dr. Keenan tells CBN News parents should take a more conservative approach to the process. “Christians have varying views on in-vitro fertilization (IVF), and we believe those are matters of conscience best worked out between each believing married couple and God, informed by wise counsel from spiritual caretakers. Certainly, when IVF is chosen, Christians must be committed to limiting the number of embryos created and allowing each a full chance at birth.”

Infertility can be a lonely and devastating time for couples who long for a little bundle of joy to call their own.

The Huffington Post says other celebrities like actress Brooke Shields, social media mogul Khloe Kardashian, Wolverine actor Hugh Jackman and actress Nicole Kidman have all gone the IVF route, some with success and others left with the pain of miscarriage.

Keenan who has seen 730 successful births says when looking at this new IVF frontier we must take into account “God’s ideal for how families are formed and structured.” when working in what he calls a “morally complex world” of reproductive science.

In final thoughts, Dr. Prentice says, “Let us hope that this anniversary sees us begin to account for all human lives and consider life-affirming pathways forward.”

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