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U.S. Clinic to Offer Designer Babies

By Susan Brinkmann, OCDS Staff Writer For a mere $18,000, a Los Angeles fertility clinic run by an in vitro fertilization pioneer is offering the same technology used to detect inherited diseases in embryos to produce “designer babies” with specific traits such as hair and eye color. The first trait selection baby is expected to be born next year. LA Fertility Institutes, a clinic run by Dr. Jeff Steinberg, who was part of the team involved in the birth of the world’s first test tube baby in 1978, says the first trait-selected baby will be born next year. "It's incredibly exciting," Dr. Steinberg told The Sunday Telegraph. "I live in LA and everyone here wants to have a straight nose and high cheekbones and are perfectly happy to pay for cosmetic surgery. "I understand the trepidation and concerns, but we cannot escape the fact that science is moving forward. If I have to get smacked around by people who think it is inappropriate, then I'm willing to live with that." Dr. Steinberg is using a method called preimplantation genetic diagnosis, or PGD, which involves producing embryos from parents who are predisposed to serious genetic diseases, then testing them to determine which embryo is carrying the disease. Only embryos free of the disease are planted into the mother’s womb while those carrying the disease are destroyed. William Kearns, a leading medical geneticist who developed the process for the purpose of allowing doctors to identify potentially lethal diseases and conditions in embryos, is furious that Dr. Steinberg is using it for such frivolous purposes. "Steinberg has jumped on my research but I'm totally against this,” Dr. Kearns said. “My goal is to screen embryos to help couples have healthy babies free of genetic diseases. Traits are not diseases." Mark Hughes, one of the "fathers" of PGD, is just as bitterly opposed to the trait selection service on offer from the Fertility Institutes. "It's ridiculous and irresponsible," said the director of Genesis Genetics in Detroit. "There are thousands of desperate couples who have no hope of having healthy children without this technology, and here we are talking about this." Dr Steinberg's clinic, already the world's largest provider of the controversial process of gender choice, has received "five or six" requests from couples for the new service.  Critics say this new form of eugenics could be used to create a kind of “master race” which will present new forms of discrimination for the rest of us. "The concern is that we'll be creating a society with new sorts of discrimination,” said Marcy Darnovsky, director of the California-based Centre for Genetics and Society. “Now it's eyes and hair colour. What happens if it's height and intelligence? Some parents may have qualms about that, but still feel under pressure to go down that route." Prominent right-to-life attorney Wesley Smith said the idea that PGD would only be used to prevent serious genetic health maladies from being passed from generation to generation was never true, even from the beginning. Instead, people need to see this “slippery slope” for what it is. “The intent was to get people to accept the principle that parents should be able to design their children, and that kind of thing is best promoted via the example of serious illness--just as in assisted suicide,” Mr. Smith wrote. ”But anyone who thought such restrictions were ever intended to--or would--remain in place other than as a temporary political expedient, please contact me so I can sell you a bridge known as the Golden Gate.” The Vatican has categorically condemned both IVF and PGD because both involve the destruction of human beings. In Dignitatis Personae, a document issued in December, 2008 by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, called the use of PGD to prevent the birth of children with various anomalies a “eugenic mentality” that should be rejected. "Such an attitude is shameful and utterly reprehensible," it said, "it is presumes to measure the value of a human life only within the parameters of 'normality' or physical well-being, thus opening the way to legitimizing infanticide and euthanasia as well." © All Rights Reserved, Living His Life Abundantly/Women of Grace.