Sperm from stem cells! The sky is falling!

I am telling you, this story is just…asking for the fertility-controls-you crowd to start losing their shit. More than usual, I mean.

Caroline Parkinson at BBC reports that Japanese scientists have successfully bred mice using sperm made from embryonic stem cells:

Japanese researchers successfully implanted early sperm cells, made from the stem cells, into infertile mice.

The working sperm which they made was then used to father healthy, and crucially fertile, pups, Cell journal reports.

A UK expert said it was a significant step forward in infertility research.

If you’re now thinking, “this is just begging for jumping to conclusions,” you’d be right.

But he said the Kyoto paper was “quite a large step forward” in developing a process by which sperm could be made for infertile men, perhaps by taking as a starting point a cell from their skin or from something like bone marrow.

He added: “Clearly more work needs to be done to refine this process, but it’s hugely exciting.”

That much is fine, but somehow, the comments on the Jezebel story are all about how this means men are about to become obsolete.

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Who wants the unwanted?

In response to Douthat’s latest lament over the incredible unfairness of making infertile couples wait for adoptable babies, Sullivan has posted some reader emails on the topic of adoption and assisted reproduction. I am really fond of this one:

To adopt domestically places the bulk of the risk on the adoptive parents’ shoulders. To adopt internationally often amounts to buying a child in circumstances that can be highly coercive and unethical to the relinquishing parents. If the people who are talked out of ending their pregnancies but who aren’t really equipped to handle parenting refuse to give up their kid until they’ve broken them, why should infertile couples be asked to fix these problems? Yes, there are lots of kids who are begging for want of a loving home, but why must the infertile be penalized or be expected to carry a higher burden than their fertile counterparts?

So of course other readers jump all over her:

Your reader wants to know why infertile couples are asked to take on risks that fertile couples aren’t? Because life isn’t fair. But she isn’t the one who got the short end of the stick. You know who has a much harder go of it? All those children in foster care with parents who “refuse to give up their kid until they’ve broken them.” First they were born to parents ill-equipped to deal with them; then, one way or another, they ended up in the hands of the state; and now some woman on the Dish is calling them broken. And we’re supposed to feel sorry for her?

Discussions surrounding assisted reproduction and gestational surrogacy (but most especially around gestational surrogacy) invariably involve a lot of asking: “Why don’t they just adopt?” There are so many kids who need good homes, the argument goes, so how could anyone be so selfish as to pay another woman just to grow their baby? Or even, why go through the trouble of IVF or IUI, when there are so many children already out there? Why not take a baby who already exists? These questions are usually coming from people who are not adoptive parents.

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In Control or Under Control: IVF

I’m still dependent on RHRC for most of my news, but it isn’t always abortion. Robin Marty rounds up news of Catholic countries that aren’t so happy to let the Church call the shots.

For example, there is Costa Rica, which is loosening its stranglehold over assisted reproduction.

Taking the lead from the Catholic Church, the Constitutional Chamber of the Supreme Court ruled in 2000 that the process violates life and human dignity, as many of the embryos used in the procedure are lost. In drafting their statement, judges adopted the rhetoric of the Catholic Church, saying children should be conceived naturally and that any manipulation of the process is morally unacceptable.

The matter of controversy here is IVF. The “manipulation of the process” is fertilizing ova in a petri dish, and on that matter I shall now shoot off my mouth.

When pro-choice feminists talk about reproductive freedom, we’re usually referring to contraception and abortion, and there are very good reasons why we tend to focus on these things, but they are not the sum total of reproductive freedom. They are the first half. They are the issues which I think of as “negative reproductive freedom.” When we are guaranteed the right NOT to reproduce, then childbirth becomes a decision, not a capitulation. When the act of bringing a child into the world is a decision, that child starts its life under much better conditions.

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