Taking Charge of Baby-Making in the New MillenniumMartine Rothblatt
How will we handle baby-making and pregnancy in the next 5, 25, and 75 years? New reproductive technology, genetic screening, and DNA-mapping have changed the 20th-century rules. In this revolutionary manifesto, Martine Rothblatt proposes a code of ethics to guide childbirth decisions in the brave new world of biotechnology.
The trigger for Unzipped Genes is the Human Genome Project, a multibillion dollar effort to unlock the secrets of the human genetic code. This new "genomic" knowledge can be used for tremendous good, such as curing disease, or unprecedented harm, such as the kinds of master race eugenics already visible in Asia, where social pressures force families to choose to abort female fetuses. Without a bioethics of birth, we risk creating a new kind of racism, which Rothblatt calls "genism," based on officially sanctioned genetic characteristics. Unregulated genetic decision-making can open the door to invasion of privacy, efforts to eliminate certain kinds of people from the gene pool, or government or corporate efforts to gain control of the human genome.
Rothblatt bases her bioethics of birth on four principles designed to empower the beneficial potential of genomics without unleashing genism. First, we must agree that the human genome belongs indivisibly to us all. Second, we must allow each person an unfettered right to intentionally create in his or her children new versions of the genome without limitations on its genetic characteristics. Third, we must insist that society has a right to help prevent unwanted pregnancies. And finally, we must ensure that genetically influenced characteristics -- from skin tone to predispositions to disease, from sexual orientation to various mental inclinations -- will not be the basis of discrimination of any kind.
Writing concretely and persuasively, Rothblatt explains the biotechnology of the Human Genome Project in terms we all can understand. Not limiting her bioethics to the realm of abstraction, she maintains that her new bioethics of birth will lead to the end of abortion and unwanted pregnancy and the creation of a world in which people can achieve a greater solidarity with one another.