Final Submission

Kadeitra Wells

Dr. Seeman

Final Submission

 

Today I, anthropologist Dr. Wells, have been summoned before Congress to attest to the benefits of continuing funding for in-vitro fertilization. This testimony specifically advocates for government funding and legalization of in-vitro fertilization in India for mothers who are unable to conceive. I testify in favor of Indian mothers to receive small grants for in-vitro fertilization procedures, including sperm and egg donation. I make this case in order to maximize reproductive success for Indians, to take advantage of the lack of religious restraints for reproduction per the openness of Hinduism, and to counter the lack of adequate healthcare in Indian ethnography. The in-vitro fertilization (IVF) process includes healthcare by an appointed physician before, during and after pregnancy occurs. In India, healthcare funding is nearly non-existent and is not accessible by the majority of Indians. By offering government funded IVF, the Indian government will also offer its citizens a healthy alternative to natural pregnancy, as well as an alternative to women who would like to bear children without remaining in a patriarchal household. In India, many men govern everything about the household, except for childcare, cooking and cleaning. Legalized and funded IVF in India can offer healthier pregnancies and lower child mortality rates, which are approximately 43 deaths per 1000 births. This is comparable to the country of Israel, which offers only 4 deaths per 1000 live births, largely due to its governmental embrace of IVF for its citizens, and the subsequent healthcare for pregnancies it includes.

A huge example of the cultural interpretations of women who use IVF is Susan Martha Kahn’s anthropologist perspective in Reproducing Jews: A Cultural Account of Assisted Conception in Israel. Within this book, Kahn embraces ethnographic conversations about IVF with women in New York City. She conducts research with anecdotes on conversations with women, patient interviews, and participant observation between clients and genetic counselors. After being genetically tested, these women were able to choose what they would like to do next concerning pregnancy, an option not afforded to many Indian women. Kahn introduces the snowball methodology in her work, which embraces using a subject interview to determine who to speak to next for anthropologic research purposes. Kahn’s writing is descriptive and follows an implicit comparative agenda to focus on how IVF use in the country f Israel differs from the use of IVF in the States. Naturally, many women in the United States use IVF primarily to conceive without the attachment of a male partner, thus promoting personal autonomy more, as opposed to correcting the inability to conceive naturally. In Israel, the use of IVF maintains the cultural component of bioethics, by ensuring that Israeli morality of enabling the joy of reproduction to each citizen is granted. The morale of offering funded IVF in Israel likely stems from the culturally constructed value that one must act in beneficence for the people. This has positively influenced the child mortality rate in Israel in the past decade (World Bank Group). This decision also enhances the communal experiences for Israeli people of flourishing reproductively. Kahn’s audience is for American anthropologists such as myself, so I am qualified to make these conclusions based on her anecdotal evidence.

Another source, Swasti Bhattacharya, confirms the ability of IVF to transcend the cultural and religious borders of Hinduism by using the Mahabharata as an ethical guide for her readers. As described per Bhattacharya, Hinduism is a religion that is open to the reproductive assistance of IVF. Bhattacharya has described the decision for one to engage in reproductive technology as an initiation of dharma in Hindu culture, and that by doing so one also assumes full responsibility for the actions associated with IVF in the form of karma. Bhattacharya also describes choosing a divine sperm donor over a human sperm donor in order to maintain traditional Hindu beliefs while still fulfilling one’s reproductive duty. In Hinduism, Dharma is both the god of merit and the cosmic judge and deems that Hindus may do as they please with reproductive decisions while remaining religiously faithful. Given that Hinduism is largely the most practiced religion in India, these words from Bhattacharya hold weight for Indian women who are interested in IVF and any potential cultural or religious offenses that could occur as a result of partaking in such.

I realize that all of these sources thus far have been from women and may appear biased in nature to a jury or Congressional member, so I am using words from Warren Shapiro’s book Social Anthropology in closing. Shapiro delivers a strong argument for his readers to understand the evolutionary principles behind reproduction. The embracement of procedures like IVF are meant for its users to maximize their reproductive success, which we as humans must do, or otherwise have our genes die out. Lowering the child mortality rate in India, creating healthier pregnancies, and offering reproduction to those who cannot conceive naturally are all characteristics of maximizing one’s reproductive success. This need is hardwired in every organism according to Shapiro, and a nation’s reproductive success begins with its individual citizens and their reproductive rights. This ideology presented by Shapiro prioritizes the cultural and biological aspects of reproduction and focuses on the actions associated with reproduction over the language used to describe it. For example, the person that is presented as one’s ‘son’ may or may not have a consanguineal kinship connection to him/her. In fact, this relation may be affinal, as a step-son from a previous relationship, or fictive as in an adopted son with no blood relation. For Shapiro, Bhattacharya, and Kahn alike, the rules of reproduction are flexible and conforming to an individual’s cultural and biological needs.

In conclusion, by enabling Indian citizens to have access to government funded IVF procedures, the government is ensuring a healthier, more reproductively successful future for its country, and faces no cultural or religious persecution for offering such services. Beneficence for the Indian people and a comparison to the country of Israel, which has legalized IVF should speak volumes to the possibilities for Indian people to grow as a nation by allowing this change.

References Page

 

Bhattacharya, Swasti. Magical Progeny, Modern Technology: A Hindu Bioethics of Reproductive Technology (Suny University Press, 2006).

Kahn, Susan Martha. Reproducing Jews: A Cultural Account of Assisted Conception in Israel (Duke University Press, 2000).

Shapiro, Warren. “What Human Kinship is Primarily About: Towards a Critique of the New Kinship Studies.” Social Anthropology (2008) 16: 137-153. E-reserves

World Bank Group, https://data.worldbank.org/indicator/SH.DYN.MORT Mortality rate, under 5 (per 1000 live births)

Final Scholar Blog – Sindoos Awel

 

In Vitro Fertilization (IVF) is an assisted reproductive technology (ART) that works by combining the egg and sperm outside the body. The process works by initially prescribing the potential mother fertility medication to stimulate egg production. It is essential to have multiple eggs since some eggs may not fertilize or develop after being retrieved. The eggs are retrieved through a surgical procedure where a ultrasound is used to guide a needle through the pelvic cavity to remove the eggs. Medication is given during this step to reduce any potential discomfort. Then, the male is to produce a sample of sperm to be combined with egg. The combination step is called insemination, the sperm and eggs are mixed together and stored in a Petri dish for the process of fertilization to occur. Eggs are then monitored to ensure that fertilization and cell division occurred. Once fertilization has happened, the eggs are now embryos and are ready to be transferred to the woman’s uterus. This transfer usually occurs three to five days after fertilization. After the transfer, implantation usually happens about six to ten days after the egg retrieval. This has been promoted as a fairly seamless process, but that might not be the case with low-efficiency rates. Although it addresses infertility issues among men and women, I believe that this is not a seamless solution that it is made out to be.

I would like to advocate for preventing the use of in vitro fertilization since it compromises the religious framework of reproduction. It is important to acknowledge that since there is a diverse population in the United States that practice many religions. In order to demonstrate the importance of natural reproduction, I will be discussing views on IVF from the Muslim medical community, and the Catholic community. Additionally, I will highlight why this technology should not be funded beyond religious justifications by using recent research that shows the inefficiency and lack of success of IVF.

To provide a Catholic perspective, I used the doctrinal material, Donum Vitae, which answers questions on reproduction, marriage, and biomedical procedures. Although the importance of fulfilling the desire to have a child is acknowledged, homologous IVF is considered morally illicit for a number of reasons (163). It states that IVF and embryo transfer itself must be judged and “cannot borrow its definite moral quality from the totality of conjugal life” (164). IVF and embryo transfer does involve the destruction of human beings since eggs and embryos may be destroyed during the process. Additionally, the trust of the process is placed in the hands of doctors and biologists, which is problematic since these healthcare professionals now have rule over the destiny of a human person. It is difficult to entrust other humans with control in such a natural process and places them in a superior position within society. Additionally, homologous artificial insemination is seen as morally illicit since it can not serve as a substitute for the conjugal act during the IVF process. Therefore the church opposes IVF from a moral standpoint since it is “in opposition to the dignity of procreation and of the conjugal union” (165). It is important to realize how these doctrines and perspectives will impact the mentality of many Americans that are Catholic. Nearly 31% of Americans are raised, according to the Catholic Church (National Geographic, 2015), which is a large amount of the population, and not to say all of them are in accordance with the Donum Vitae, but a good amount of practicing Catholics are. It is important to remember the demographics of the US population and what their sentiments will be towards policy change such as implementing IVF and having the government regulating it.

Upon looking at Muslim medical ethics and the study of Islamic Embryology, there is a mixed consensus as a whole on IVF, but there are cases in which any form of IVF is forbidden (68). Also since a majority of classical fuqaha would have opposed abortion, it only makes sense that IVF is seen as forbidden in those cases. When looking at the different stages of the embryo through an Islamic perspective, after the 120th day or when ensoulment occurs, which is after the stages nutfa, alaqa, and mudgha stages have passed is when abortion of the embryo would not be permissible. Additionally, abortion prior to ensoulment is also not allowed in some cases (68) so this would put Muslim couples with eggs that need to be disposed of or destroyed in a difficult situation. Additionally, if the embryos are not disposed of, they can be used for research, but the Islamic Organization for Medical Sciences (IOMS) decided at a conference in 1990, that using frozen embryos for research is “among the worst of three possible ways to deal with frozen embryos” (69). This could lead to possible issues later on with people undergoing IVF that may not to submit their embryos to research.  

Moreover, I believe it is important to examine the efficiency of IVF if it was to be funded by the government or other public institutions. For instance, there was a study published by PubMed that sampled over eight thousand women, ranging from 20 to 44 on their usage of IVF. Between 1993 and 2002, there was a 47% success rate, which means less than half of women that used IVF during this trial were unable to become pregnant. Additionally, it is important to note that each couple underwent an average of three cycles. I believe this success rate is too low to ensure funding. Perhaps if the success rate was over 50, that would allow for some certainty and trust. It is also essential to consider that natural human reproduction is also an inefficient process with every fourth or fifth egg-sperm interaction actually results in a live birth, so in vitro fertilization is considered to be even more inefficient. Additionally, the cost of IVF is important to consider since this is what the funding will go to. On average, IVF cycles cost about $12,000 prior to medications that cost an additional $3,000 to $5,000. For a procedure that is only successful less than half the time, the cost cannot be justified as efficient.

Upon inspecting the process of in vitro fertilization and look at the efficiency of this technology, I was able to conclude that funding for this procedure is not justifiable. Looking at the procedure from a moral perspective, it is also not sound since the destruction of other embryos is involved in almost every procedure. By using the works of Donum Vitae and Muslim medical ethics, I was able to use religious texts and doctrines as a grounds for demonstrating why individuals in the United States that align with those ideologies also might not support funding for in vitro fertilization through the government.

 

Stewart, Holman, Hart, Finn, Mai, and Preen. “How Effective Is in Vitro Fertilization, and How Can It Be Improved?” Fertility and Sterility 95.5 (2011): 1677-683. Web.

 

Jones, H.W. et al. “Reproductive Efficiency of Human Oocytes Fertilized in Vitro.” Facts, Views & Vision in ObGyn 2.3 (2010): 169–171. Print.

 

Brockopp, Jonathan E., and Thomas. Eich. Muslim Medical Ethics: from Theory to Practice. University of South Carolina Press, 2008.

 

Catholic Church. Congregatio Pro Doctrina Fidei. Instruction on Respect for Human Life in Its Origin and on the Dignity of Procreation: Replies to Certain Questions of the Day. Washington, D.C.: Office of and Promotion Services, United States Catholic Conference, 1987. Print.

 

Sgarro, Victoria. “Who Are U.S. Catholics? Numbers Show a Surprising Shift” National Geographic, 17 Sep. 2015, https://news.nationalgeographic.com/2015/09/150917-data-points-how-catholic-population-has-shifted-in-the-united-states/. Accessed 30 June 2018.

 

In vitro fertilization (IVF)Medline Plus, 4 June. 2018 https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/007279.htm

*Disclaimer*: This post does not reflect the views of the student.

Thank you for a great class & summer semester!

Final Blog – Neha Vaddepally

Good Morning. I am here today to testify before you all on the issue of funding for cloning. As a bioethicist with a Masters in Theology, I feel that I have a particular skillset that is useful for a testimony of this kind. The topic of cloning has been controversial from the moment it was proved possible, yet most cannot articulate what their reasoning is for advocating against cloning. What is it about the act of cloning that incites such a strong visceral reaction? NYU Bioethics Professor Arthur Caplan and others have called it the “yuck factor”; a natural human “gut feeling” that something is wrong with these reproductive technologies (Prainsack 175). But just as Leon Kass, the former chairman of the US President’s Council on Bioethics, admits that revulsion is not an argument, I urge you all to look past the emotional response you may have to cloning and examine my reasoning intellectually (Prainsack 175). In this testimony, I will offer two religious stances favor of continuing funding for the regulation of human cloning research.

In order to properly discuss the repercussions of human cloning, we must first understand the biological process by which cloning functions. In natural sexual reproduction, the resulting human is a product of genetic mixture of that person’s mother and father. The child receives half its genetic material from his father, and the other half from his mother. This genetic material is “united in the process that we call fertilization, which normally happens after intercourse, but can also happen in a petri dish after in vitro fertilization (called IVF)” (Broyde 509). Regardless of the method of conception, the resulting child cannot be genetically identical to its parents. In the case of cloning, scientists isolate nucleic genetic material from cells of one single donor. They then introduce this genetic material into an ovum that has been stripped of its genetic code. The egg, containing transplanted DNA, is then electrically stimulated to induce cell division, just as a regular fertilized egg would. This egg is implanted into a woman’s uterus where the cells will continue to divide and grow. Thus, normal gestation will follow and result in a fully formed, normal human (Broyde 509).

Due to the expertise I have acquired within the arena of reproductive technology, and in order to properly convince you why funding should be continued, I would first like to address the arguments that exist against reproductive cloning. Because human cloning technology is still in the hypothetical stages, all of the major religious institutions have not yet released official statements on the topic. Therefore, I will use a combination of published material and my own analysis to explore its relationship to Judaism and Catholicism. First and foremost, the very obvious argument exists in that cloning alters and plays with human life in a way that God has not intended it to be. This is a prominent argument within the Catholic community. Since I am but a bioethicist, I cannot convince you to take my side, but only give what I feel is the right background to approach an issue such as reproductive cloning. To do this, it is necessary to analyze reproductive cloning within the Catholic faith. Catholicism views reproductive cloning as an asexual act, one that strips the sacred procreative act from husband and wife. The egg is viewed as an experiment or as technologically manipulated, rather than natural and willed by God. According to the Church, using technology to produce children is not the natural way to reproduce and therefore is not the way God intended. However, using the Catholic text Donum Vitae, I will show that reproductive cloning does not necessarily violate Catholic ideals in the way that other reproductive technologies may. Donum Vitae explains on behalf of Catholicism that there are two main categories of reproductive technologies that go against God’s will: heterologous artificial fertilization and homologous artificial fertilization. Heterologous fertilization refers to “techniques used to obtain a human conception artificially by the use of gametes coming from at least one donor other than the spouses who are joined in marriage”, including IVF and ET (embryo transfer) using gametes taking from a donor other the two spouses attempting to have a child. Homologous fertilization refers to the same processes as heterologous fertilization, except that in this case the gametes of the two spouses are used. Cloning does not necessarily fall into either of these categories, as gametes (sex cells) are not used in the process of cloning. A gamete has only one half of the genetic material necessary to create a full human, therefore a somatic cell (body cell) must be used. So, from this standpoint, reproductive cloning does not violate these rules.

Since my previous point seems only to be a technicality, I can give another instance in Donum Vitae that shows that cloning does not challenge the ideals of Catholicism. In the medical procedure of IVF and other reproductive technologies, it is critical to the process that a doctor be involved. In this case, according to Donum Vitae, “such fertilization entrusts the life and identity of the embryo into the power of doctors and biologists and establishes the domination of technology over the origin and destiny of the human person.” This goes against Catholic ideals, as the spouses in question should not only have say in the process, but be in charge of the outcomes and consequences of the procedure. The human cloning trials facilitated by the federal research program will seek consenting adults as both genetic donors and surrogates. They will have autonomy and control over their genetic material, not the doctors. Therefore, the medical persons involved in the trials will not have decision making power regarding the fate of an embryo.

While Catholics tend to take issue with the methods of conception, the issues that Jewish people have with cloning typically involve its repercussions on family relationships and society. There are many suggestions as to why two Abrahamic religions can see the same topic so differently. One key reason seems to be the reading of the first and second chapters of the Book of Genesis, the first book of the Old Testament or Torah. The Christian reading of the origin story of mankind suggests that reproduction is a gift given to man by God, and if one is not blessed with this ability, then they should respect God’s decision and continue living their lives without procreating. On the other hand, the Jewish reading of the line “Be fruitful and multiply” implies a command, thus one should try any method one can in order to fulfill God’s wish to bear children (Genesis 1:28, KJV). Their adherence to the idea that “human beings, since they were created in God’s image, are not only entitled to but mandated to create,” is clearly visible in the way that they approach reproductive technology (Prainsack 183). Because of this mentality, there is much less resistance in the Jewish community regarding reproductive cloning. “The concept of something being condemned because it is not natural is not an argument that the Jewish tradition necessarily accepts” (Breitowitz 330). Jewish law says that the “ex utero embryo is not regarded as comparable with an implanted embryo, and in no way is it considered equivalent to a fully fledged human being” (Prainsack 182). Thus, there is much more leeway in terms of how one has a child. But, with cloning specifically, there is a worry that the resulting child will either not be treated properly by the family or peers, and that reproductive cloning is a direct threat to human genetic diversity. The simple response to those fears is that cloning is not yet available for humans, and due to the sheer cost of reproducing a human through this technology, most people will not be able to afford it. This will greatly reduce the amount of people wishing to clone themselves in order to have a family, and will keep the gene pool varied.

Despite the quite negative scenarios for reproductive cloning that people discuss, there are quite a few advantages to having this technology. For example, “cloning might be legitimate in order to obtain products like marrow or blood that could be used for bone marrow procedures and the like” for those who need procedures done (Breitowitz 331). This clone would be raised by the family just as any other child, except this one is genetically identical to their other child. The removal of bone marrow will not pose any real risk to the health of the child, so by Jewish law, it is acceptable.

Religion aside, I believe that the funding of reproductive cloning research can be justified through careful thinking. Many of the aversions that we may have towards this new technology truly has no basis in our current world. The biggest one perhaps is that we will clone those people that we feel are “excellent” as per our standards, and create a superhuman race. However, this idea is just that, since the genetic clone of a brilliant scientist like Albert Einstein would not result in another Albert Einstein. The environment in which one is raised and the way they grew up is critical to their personality and even many physical traits. This is a key aspect of cloning that many people do not immediately realize. It is essentially impossible to clone someone hoping to recreate that person exactly, physically and psychologically. Since these ideas are far fetched at the least, it seems only fair to see cloning as giving those who cannot reproduce a chance to do so. Any other interpretation of reproductive cloning is either not feasible or not something that we should be concerned about in these very early stages of research. If research is not done, how can we reap the many benefits of this technology? Overall, I believe that any technology “requires that one respect the individuality and singularity of every individual. […] The pro cloning approach emphasizes the moral imperative of using human wisdom for the betterment of mankind, and yet at the same time we must use it in a way that does not undercut the singularity of every human being” (Breitowitz 340). It is critical that moving forward, we should think prospectively about the issues raised by cloning rather than give in to a potentially incorrect gut reaction.

Final Blog Post – Jemimah Kim

Good afternoon, esteemed members of Congress.

I appreciate your invitation and time to share my intellect on the continuation of the Emory in Atlanta Cloning Initiative research investigation. I sincerely believe that the Committee’s collection of insights from specialists in a variety of fields is the optimal approach to deciding if research into this reproductive technology should be continued. For those of you that do not know me, I am Dr. Jemimah Kim and I am the 17th director of the National Institutes of Health (NIH). The views expressed throughout this testimony are my own, and are not representative of any official position of the National Institutes of Health. My proposed perspective, though, is not entirely personal but has been heavily influenced by not only an ethical approach but through religious and cultural perspectives that attempt to advocate for various communities throughout the United States.

In this testimony, I will argue for the cessation of funding for the Emory in Atlanta Cloning Initiative and their search for successful cloning techniques. Not only can this area of reproductive technology research be viewed as a complete violation of laws of nature, but it has significant potential to create more problems than it attempts to solve, assuming that cloning procedures can ever be successful. Along with questions regarding the technicalities of cloning procedures, the results of a procedure must be just as seriously considered before continuing experimentation. This testimony will focus on just a few of these questions that cloning produces, such as initial processes of experimentation, the dangers of predetermined genetic makeup of offspring, and the accepted kinship of the clone. Furthermore, this testimony will incorporate a variety of religious perspectives on the matter because of the large variety of religious communities that this technology will impact if continued. These communities turn to religious texts and figures that help form the fundamental, firm beliefs that these communities base many of their moral stances on, especially in situations regarding procreation and human life.

I have researched four of the most prominent religions in the United States and have maintained a focus in their perspectives on procreation. These four religions include Christianity, or most specifically Catholicism, Judaism, Islam, and Hinduism, which have collectively been surveyed to comprise of more than one fourth of the U.S. population by Pew Research Center. Pew Research Center also produced survey results revealing that six of ten Americans say religion plays an important role in their life. Because of the importance of religion in a large portion of Americans, a look into religious perspectives and ethnographic studies on religion are significant contributions to be considered in an argument for the continuation of a procreative technology such as cloning. Consequently, some religious arguments have been weaved throughout this testimony so that I could propose a more all-inclusive argument.

Successful cloning has been proposed as an ideal way for both individuals and couples to have biological children if they are unable to do so independently or sexually. In this way, an individual could use their own genetic material to produce a being with the same exact genetic makeup as one’s self. While this process is quite interesting as a whole, its consequences include severe questions of kinship, originality, and “tempting fate.” Overall, a previous submission in 2002 from the President’s Council on Bioethics had established that cloning was unethical. Although this advice has been overlooked for the initial funding of the Emory Cloning Initiative, it is time that this research has been reviewed again for the sake of termination of a potentially harmful scientific quest.

The principles of the ethics of human research are inevitably compromised in the search for a perfected cloning method. Due to “high rates of morbidity and mortality in the cloning of other mammals,” the complicated cloning process applied to human subjects would be “extremely unsafe” and attempts to satisfy this inquiry would be highly unethical, even if the techniques were perfected in other mammals first. It was concluded by the Council in 2002 that “no ethical way to try to discover whether cloning-to-produce children can become safe, now or in the future” (“Human,” 2002). The Catholic Church’s strict policy against experimentation on research on all human life (embryo’s included) is a driving factor for the Church’s stance against cloning because “unless there is a moral certainty of not causing harm to the life or integrity of the unborn child and the mother,” medical research on such subjects cannot be conducted (“Instruction,” 1987). Even the legislative branch of Israel, the Knesset, has established and extended a ban on human reproductive cloning for the time being because of the unsafe procedures and unawareness of potential implications for cloning technology (Prainsack, 2006). The initial process for establishing safe cloning procedures are too dangerous and would cause too much collateral for a reproductive technology whose consequences still remain questionable.

If one were to hypothetically ignore the inevitable risks of continued experimentation for cloning success, the consequences of success in such a reproductive technology require an even more considerable amount of review. The positions against the process in general and the status of the individual are the most pressing factors to be considered.

From a Christian perspective, human children have naturally been designed and granted to couples, where both male and female contributions are necessary for the manifestation of a new life. Mores specifically, this gift has been granted to married couples, so one trying to reproduce on their own or without physical input from their partner should not be granted reproductive rights. This view focuses on the comprehensive process of cloning and the required components for reproductive success, or rather, the lack thereof. Because cloning reproduces an individual, it does not occur between a male and female nor is it required to occur between people holily united. The Catholic Church’s official statement on reproductive technology declares that “attempts or hypotheses for obtaining a human being without any connection with sexuality through “twin fission,” cloning or parthenogenesis are to be considered contrary to moral law, since they are in opposition to the dignity of both human procreation and of conjugal union” (“Instruction,” 1987). This published declaration emphasizes the importance of Natural Moral Law and the blessings that come from God as a fruit of marriage. Thus from the Catholic perspective, any attempt to reproduce artificially, more specifically via cloning, is prohibited. To attempt cloning processes as an alternative for procreation of biological offspring would go against what the Catholic Church has deemed acceptable due to marital status and the perceived Natural Moral Law.

A perspective on cloning from a Hindu perspective is relatively less direct and comprehensive but can sensibly result in similar stances. The term “Hinduism” in itself is misleading because of it reference to a widespread community that differs in many aspects aside from original geographic location (Bhattacharyya, 2006). Nevertheless, there are six important elements of Hindu that help produce religious decisions. These elements emphasize two focuses for a Hindu follower: societal good and the success and good of the individual. There is a focus on the individual through teachings of dharma and karma, as well a commitment to ahimsa or no harm. These teachings would support the termination of cloning research studies due to the potential harm for the mother and fetus. However, some may argue that this focus on the individual can be overridden by the importance of societal well-being that is also emphasized in the Hindu religion. Could this argument for the well-being of society be applied to increased care for those who already exist and are not being cared for like orphans? There are even parallels of adoption that can be derived from religious Hindu texts (Bhattacharyya, 2006). I am proposing that the Hindu faith would support the termination of cloning due to the potential harm to test subjects, animals and human alike, as well as the potential good that can come from the inability to procreate through cloning. Instead of cloning for reproduction, Hinduism may promote the care of a child to be done in the form of adoption rather than reproduction through artificial cloning specifically, which would ultimately promote overall societal good and the unity of all life.

On the other hand, some scholarly articles that I reviewed on Judaism and Islam promoted the development of reproductive cloning technology for the sake of maintaining religious homogeneity and determining clear kinship ties. Through the perspective of the articles, these religions prioritize biological ties in the determination of kinship linkages. For example, in the past, Islam has explicitly discouraged adoption practices, thus disregarding the possibility of social parenthood. It is described as “a religion that privileges – even mandates – biological descent and inheritance” where most Muslim men “cannot accept the possibility of a social parenthood via adoption or gamete donation” (Inhorn, 2006). Furthermore, these religions are very specific about who may serve as a donor for in vitro fertilization procedures because of the unclear resulting kinship, the potential of donation to be considered adultery, and the religious identification of the baby. Because of these concerns, followers of these religions may prefer cloning reproductive practices because of the pure genetic lineage guaranteed for the offspring. However, a concern more specific to the Jewish perspective is the kinship of cloned progeny. Because of the religion’s emphasis on both on the gestational and social development periods of an offspring’s life, the relationship of a surrogate and the genetic donor are a little blurred. These distinctions make it “markedly harder for a woman to be considered the mother of her cloned progeny than it would be for a man to be considered the father of his cloned progeny” (Broyde, 1998). However, cloning is the optimal procreative technology that aligns with the religion’s preference for reproduction with individuals within the religious community in addition to their concern for incest among individuals reproduced via donor in vitro fertilization and other reproductive practices. These restrictions combined with the community’s cultural obligation to “inhabit the earth” makes artificial procreation a viable option, and a cloning procedure to be the optimal option (Broyde, 1998).

Though these articles offer more pros for the development of cloning methods, I have observed a shared lack of reference to the potential collateral that would be necessary for the perfection of cloning processes. In the aforementioned religious perspectives of Catholicism and Hinduism, scholarly writers emphasized the religion’s prioritization of the well-being of the mother and babies affected in potential experimentation. I propose that Congress assemble religious authority figures for a deeper, fuller understanding of perspectives on cloning for major communities in the United States.
Withal, the development of cloning processes opens the door to weary potential for situations that are against the common good. Successful cloning procedures would promote an understanding of people as a science that can be predetermined for possible betterment of an individual. In other words, successful practices could expand to sciences that allow parents to specify predetermined characteristics. Cloning specifically diminishes originality among all people and could motivate discrimination or devaluation of clones or the original genetic donor. Clones could experience decreased quality of life both physically and socially, whether the scientific technique was not perfected for their normal development or the expectations preset by the accomplishments of their genetic donor would be a constant shadow over their heads. Lastly, there is a prevalent concern for the safety of the clones, and the proposed possibility of their exploitation as test subjects for increased understanding and potential cures for the non-clone population (“Human, 2002).

It is important to distinguish two potential goals for the development of cloning techniques: cloning for reproduction and cloning for biomedical sciences. While I fully understand and respect the desire for children and potential restrictions working against couples wanting to start a family, I believe the developments of in vitro fertilization and surrogacy are sufficient techniques to achieve this desire. There are religious and personal barricades to the acceptance of IVF for some couples, but the dangers associated with the development of cloning techniques and the consequences and challenges associated with a successful procedure far outweigh potential benefits for cloning technology. Additionally, UNICEF has estimated that 140 million children around the world under the age of 18 are orphaned and in need of adoption. The artificial procreation of more children does not seem like it should be a large concern, and I suggest programs and processes that provide care for these children be prioritized as well. In a Western country like the United States, adoption has earned a reputation as a time-inefficient and tedious process, so increased efficiency and promotion of this social parenthood could be an effective focus to both alleviate the need for artificially created offspring as well as decrease the amount of children left without families. The Emory in Atlanta Cloning Initiative should not continue to receive funding because of the threat cloning technology is to acceptable human existence. An argument for and against perfected cloning techniques is the potential of clones to be subjects available for human research studies and even organ donations. In other words, some may argue for the continuation of cloning processes in order to benefit the terminally ill in biomedical practices. However, an alternative investigation for Congress’ funding could be towards the development of tissues and organs from nonhuman sources. I propose success in this field of research would satisfy the public’s desire for cloning technologies for biomedical advancement. For example, rather than looking to clone development for organ donations and somewhat ethical human research, funding could be directed towards developing organs outside of a human body. An example of both a successful study and a study with incredible potential is the investigation that used decellularized plants as perfusable tissue to engineer biological scaffolds (Gershlak et al., 2017). The benefits that cloning technology offers can be achieved in many more humane, less ethically complex ways. Funding for the Emory in Atlanta Cloning Initiative should be discontinued and alternatively redirected towards encouragement for adoption and child care, as well as into other investigations that humanely research cures for the terminally ill.

SOURCES:
Bhattacharya, Swasti. “Magical Progeny, Modern Technology: A Hindu Bioethics of Reproductive Technology.” Suny University Press, 2006.

Broyde, Michael. “Modern Reproductive Technologies and Jewish Law,” In Michael J. Broyde and Michael Ausubel editors, Marriage, Sex and the Family in Judaism. Rowman and Littlefield, 2005, pp. 295-328

Gershlak, J., Hernandez S., Fontana G., Perreault, L., Hansen, K., Larson S., Binder, B., Dolivo, D., Yang, T., Dominiko, T., Rolle M., Weathers, P., Medina-Bolivar, F., Cramer, C., Murphy, W., and G. Gaudette. “Crossing Kingdoms: Using Decellularized Plants as Perfusable Tissue Engineering Scaffolds.” Biomaterials, 2017, vol. 125, pp. 13-22.

“Human Cloning and Human Dignity: An Ethical Inquiry.” The President’s Council on Bioethics, July, 2002. www.bioethics,gov.

Inhorn, Marcia. “He Won’t Be My Son.” Medical Anthropology Quarterly, 2006, vol. 20, pp. 94-120.

Instructions on Respect for Human Life. Congregation for Doctrine of Faith, (1987):141-175.

Prainsack, Barbara. “‘Negotiating Life’: The Regulation of Human Cloning and Embryonic Stem Cell Research in Israel.” Social Studies of Science, 2006, vol. 36, pp. 173-205.

Final Blog-Nihu Bhardwaj

After much thought and research, I believe that funding for amniocentesis should be provided to women, however, in certain conditions. For example, if the women is over a certain age, such as over 37, or has a genetic predisposition on either her side of the family or her significant other’s. I don’t believe that funding for amniocentesis or invasive genetic screenings should be provided to couples just because they want to see if their child is going to be “normal” or not. Looking through the lens of American, Japanese, and Israeli culture, I hope to show how this technology has both positive and negative consequences during pregnancy.

Tsipy Ivry’s Embodying Culturecompares how pregnancies are in Japan versus Israel. The Japanese have a very different approach to amniocentesis, as well as a lot of biomedical technology, from what is commonly seen in the Western world. This has a lot to do with their history on eugenics. The Japanese went through several periods in the twentieth century where they were restricted on the number of kids they could have or they were encouraged to have lots of children (Ivry 81). However, over the past couple of decades, they have now reached a problem where the majority of their population is older and there are less children being born. Hence, Japanese officials are encouraging couples to have more kids. One of the consequences of that was making abortion illegal. After abortion became illegal in 1996, the uses of biomedical technology, such as obstetrical ultrasound and amniocentesis, for the purpose of abortion greatly diminished. As Ivry describes there is “no clear guidance from the health ministry” (Ivry 105). She goes on and describes the guidelines that were issues by the health ministry in 1999, which stated that “an ob-gyn has no obligation to inform the patient of the existence of the triple marker” (Ivry 105). This differs significantly from the United States and Israel where the patients have to be informed of what the results are. Due to the Maternal Body Protection Law that came into place in the late 1990’s, as well as the desire to increase Japan’s population, the ministry and the medical insitutions simply had a “formal lack of enthusiasm to use it [genetic testing]” (Ivry 105).

The guidelines set by the government are also interpretive. For example, some institutions state that amniocentesis should be offered as a choice to patients above the age of 35. Whether that means all 35 year olds and older or individuals above the age of 35 seems to be up to discretion of the doctor. As Tsipy Ivry goes on to describe, it has a lot to do with the culture of pregnancy within Japan. Doctors are more reluctant to tell their patients about the test or its meaning. They also don’t want to add more stress towards the mother or the baby. In Japan, a meaningful bond between the mother and baby is created from the day that she knows she’s pregnant, through means such as writing in a notebook, talking to the baby, etc. Thus, for the mother to want to abort the baby due to genetic abnormalities, whom she considers as a full child and not a fetus, is a more stressful ordeal than it would be if this bond hadn’t been created. Additionally, the idea of statistics in amniocentesis, like “the 3:1000 chance of losing the child versus the 1:300 probability that the child would be born with Down’s” (Ivry 112) is inconvenient due to its lack of definitivity and a burden to the parents. If the parents decide to go forward with an amniocentesis and the result comes back negative, there is still a chance that their child could be born with a genetic or chromosomal abnormality. Thus, in Japan, amniocentesis is weighted more heavily, if undertaken, because of all the additional hospital visits, hospitalization time after amniocentesis, antibiotic prescriptions to avoid infection, as well as ultrasounds every few hours after the test (Ivry 120). This may be due to the change in culture after eugenics, the reluctance of the doctors to interfere in a natural process or the indecisive nature of statistics, but Japanese are less likely to use amniocentesis for checking abnormalities. Furthermore, Japanese women are more focused on other anxieties and pressures during pregnancy, like weight-gain, than they are on what the genetic outcome of their child will be (Ivry 172).

Ivry then showed us a look at Jewish Israel, where the use of biotechnologies for checking abnormalities in pregnancy are used more than they were in Japan. Couples that decide to undergo amniocentesis usually have to go to classes to understand the statistics, risks, and what the test results mean. However, as described by Ivry, the couple focuses less on the numbers and “important information” and more on the cultural implications, as well as the practicality of living with a child with Down’s, for example. Because of the liberty of these genetic tests in Israel, women are able to make a decision on whether or not they would be able to live with a child that has a genetic or chromosomal abnormality. There are many reasons for not wanting an unhealthy child: new life stability, the amount of care, fear, etc. Unlike the Japanese who stressed about weight and other allergies, the pregnant women in Israel focused and stressed a lot more on whether their child was going to be normal or not, due to this increased access to genetic screenings, such as amniocentesis. Additionally, amniocentesis in Israel doesn’t require all the medical institutional time, like it did in Japan. Instead, women “must sit in the waiting room following the same test before they are sent home” (Ivry 120). In general, more information is given to pregnant couples. How they interpret and use this information is influenced by doctors, family, friends and personal views. It is less about what diseases the child may have and more about how that child would fit into the couple’s current life story.

As described earlier about baby bonding in Japan, that is not a concept typically seen in Israel. Instead, “through birth, the fetus becomes a baby” (Ivry 216). This fundamental difference in when a fetus is thought to be a baby also significantly influences the use of invasive genetic screenings. As Ivry states, “such techniques of detachment…devised to defend women from threatening catastrophe…underpin the trivialization of pregnancy, as well as the enthusiastic embrace of PND” (Ivry 216). This can be seen through their everyday life. Most women who become pregnant in Israel continue to work until a week or so before their due. They don’t believe that they should be given any special treatment or start worrying about the child just because they are pregnant. This detachment of baby from body is contradictory to the Japanese women who leave their jobs as soon as their know their pregnant and prepare for the child. This cultural difference between Japan and Israel demonstrates the views of a two nations that have opposing views on genetic testing.

Compared to Japan and Israel, the United States is a melting pot of individuals. Because there is not one major ethnic group, the views and uses of genetic testing depends greatly on factors like SES, religion, physical and emotional environment. Rayna Rapp describes three different hospitals in three different parts of town in New York City to demonstrate this to us: Elite, Middle and City. The way information is presented, received and understood all depends on the women’s location, education, status, and so much more. For example, Rapp describes how genetic counselors would describe statistics to clients who don’t know how to handle numbers, aren’t scientifically educated but are attentive, or those who are scientifically sophisticated (Rapp 67-68). The importance of the genetic counselors and the influence they had on these patients was crucial, in comparison to what was seen in Japan and Israel, due to this difference in diversity. Because of this diversity, genetic counselors have to compensate by translating, using metaphors or phrases that mean something similar in that client’s language, simplifying numbers, etc. (Rapp 68). A problem that was encountered in City Hospital and some clients of the Middle Hospital, was obtaining a genetic record of the patients. For example, what was the cause of a family death? What was the medical name for a problem that a close family member had? (Rapp 74). Things like that which may not seem important to name for the patients, play a huge role for the counselors. However, due to the differences in culture, it was not important back home, so it shouldn’t matter here. Yet, when it comes time to potentially screening for these genetic tests, how does the counselor know if they should let the client undergo that risk or not? Another problem due to cultural difference was silence due to misinterpretation or not knowing what to say that the doctors would understand. As Rapp describes, medical etiquette could mean the doctor explains everything to the patient and they don’t need to explain everything; that is why they go to the doctor (Rapp 75). This change in medical environment where they have to exchange information that doesn’t seem relevant or that the patient doesn’t know, leads to problems.

These communication problems result in misconceptions and differences in light of “genetic and socially gendered contributions to a pregnancy’s health and well-being, and between medical and experiential understandings of what specific disabilities entail” (Rapp 79). Middle-class, educated (usually scientifically) couples have an easier time understanding what they are doing at the genetic counselors and what their future plan is for testing. However, the formality to which they understand what the testing is for and why they are undergoing it, usually decreases as SES and scientific education decreases. That doesn’t mean that they don’t understand what they are going through; it’s because of the complexity of their situation usually means that there are things that might be understood between both parties both not with 100% certainty that a middle-class, American-raised couple would have. Another problem, that was seen in both Israel and Japan, is the increased anxiety that mothers have if they need to undergo genetic testing or if they’ve already undergone it (Rapp 106). However, the women that Rapp interviewed that had undergone amniocentesis reported that they were very glad that they had undergone the test. Even though it did cause them a lot of anxiety, they said “it was better to know than not to know” (Rapp 116).

The concept of when one believes the fetus is a baby was important in the United States, as well. For some mothers, it only increased their anxiety for wanting to undergo amniocentesis, while for others it didn’t matter. As Rapp describes later on, “this anxiety invokes dread because it confronts the issue of ‘choice’; a diagnosed fetus is potentially an aborted fetus. And the fear of taking the responsibility for ending a desire pregnancy is substantial” (Rapp 128). All these beliefs of abortion, fetus-baby, along with the diversity already present, makes amniocentesis in America a much more complex and individualistic choice than in the previous cultural contexts. Like seen with some women in Israel, some pregnant women that Rapp interviewed also expressed how they’d be able to handle a disabled child, along with their current life. Some expressed how it was selfish of them to do so, how they couldn’t imagine daily life no matter how much they wanted a kid, how much their life would center on their child instead of themselves, and how they wouldn’t want to burden any siblings (Rapp 137-139).

After looking at amniocentesis in 3 different cultural settings, there were both arguments for and against having amniocentesis. In Japan, Tsipy Ivry showed us a world where genetic testing wasn’t the most important thing. There were other things to worry about in a pregnancy, such as weight, bonding with the baby, cultural allergies, etc. Israel, on the other hand, is a very pro-biomed technology country. Thus, it was no surprise that the government and the people were not against amniocentesis. It was a way to make sure that the pregnancy was a good one, that, considering personal circumstances, the couple would be able to make their own decision on whether they needed to know if they had a disabled child and if they would be able to handle that child. If not, they were able to make that decision. In the United States, a nation where biomedical technology is used greatly, it was a mix. Rayna Rapp helped show that due to a cultural diaspora, there were so many factors that genetic counselors had to consider when counseling their clients, while making sure that they didn’t sway their decisions based on personal (genetic counselor) views. These could be things like, how abortion or disabilities were handled in the client’s native country, current life, SES, religion, etc. Because of this, it was important for the genetic counselor to make sure they were giving the clients specific important information about genetic testing, like amniocentesis. However, the level to which they gave the clients the information and the level to which the clients actually understood the information varied, which is a problem. Lastly, the United States is not currently worrying about population growth, unlike the other two nations, so the choices made by couples were purely individualistic, in regards to genetic testing.

Through this range of views, I have chosen to advocate for a restricted amniocentesis; amniocentesis only in situations in which there is a known genetic predisposition on either side of the couple’s family or if the woman is above a certain age (that will be decided by a counsel). I believe that amniocentesis, as mentioned early on, should not be used as a tool in which couples can choose whether they want to have an “abnormal” child or not. While I do think that biomedical technology is great, especially for bringing a closer view of the child like sonograms, it also increases genetic selection, to an extent. By being able to choose what kind of child we think deserves to live in this world, based on our living conditions, lifestyle and morals, we are intentionally creating a normal vs abnormal child. Furthermore, because the United States is so diverse, there are unfair circumstances in pregnancy to women and their significant others that don’t understand the complexity of testing, like scientifically-educated, middle-class couples do. If there was a way to the communication and understanding portion of genetic testing/amniocentesis easier for both the counselor and the client, then it would be better and funding for amniocentesis could increase. However, because there is so much diversity and inequality in the medical institutions, it would be best to restrict amniocentesis. Finally, in a period that is already stressful enough, having these added, dangerous tests, like amniocentesis, puts even more pressure on the pregnant woman. During a time when they should be focusing on the well-being of themselves and the child, increasing stress and anxiety will only make it worse. Therefore, I believe, that we should become a little bit more like the Japanese that Tsipy Ivry described: less focused on genetic testing and more focused on oneself and the baby.

Citation:

Ivry, Tsipy. Embodying Culture : Pregnancy in Japan and Israel, Rutgers University Press, 2014. ProQuest Ebook Central

Rapp, Rayna. Testing Women, Testing the Fetus : The Social Impact of Amniocentesis in America, Routledge, 1999. ProQuest Ebook Central,

 

Final Blog Post

It is common to think that emotions interfere with rational thinking. In the ‘Chariot Allegory’, Plato describes emotion and reason as two winged horses that are pulling a chariot. One of the horses represents rational, moral impulse or the positive part of nature; while the other horse represents irrational passions or lustful nature.  The activities of one system are automatic and often emotional, whereas the activities of the other are controlled and never emotional. The automatic system gets things done quickly, but it is prone to error. The controlled system’s mission is to keep a watchful eye and to make corrections when necessary. In everyday life decisions, this duality often arises as the individual train of thought may be influenced by any of those at a given point. For example, whether to go eat dessert instead of doing physical activity; often selection to eat sweets comes from the emotional thinking and the desire for quick satisfaction. On the other hand, often the decision to engage in physical activity comes along with the logical reasoning that it is, in the long run, the choice that will bring the most benefits. In a similar fashion, the public’s opinion on alternative new reproductive technologies is based on the same dichotomy of how each method might affect -emotionally and logically- the population. While most of the rash decision-making emotions are usually excluded from legally binding actions; emotions and feelings remain involved due to fictive kinship that people develop over experiences -or lack of- through each of their lifetimes, hence, any reproduction alternatives should be considered on a case by case basis. When a society is faced with a new technology, the instinct is to -at first -reject it. But as time goes on it becomes more acceptable because its implications are more and more understood by the population.

A 2010 Pew Research Center’s Forum on Religion & Public Life study of more than 230 countries and territories found out that “Worldwide, more than eight-in-ten people identify with a religious group” and that “There are 5.8 billion religiously affiliated adults and children around the globe, representing 84 percent of the 2010 world population of 6.9 billion,”. With the same analysis projecting that these numbers will increase as the population rises to 9.3 billion by the middle of the century. It is safe to say that religious involvement is most times included in these experiences. Contrary to alternative reproductive methods like In Vitro Fertilization (IVF) or surrogacy, which have been taken into the mainstream due to the longevity of their existence, cloning is the new method of reproduction that has not been involved as mainstream yet. Many have understandable reservations and hesitancies given certain circumstances under which the being is conceived and the means to ‘achieve’ life. However, I believe these are due to lack of understanding of what it entails. The restrictions range in origin but they mostly fall under the same “ethical” and/or “religious” classification. In terms of ethics, there is debate over the right of the parent to decide how the child is going to look like and the limitations on the use of the technology to avoid exploitation of its capacities. But as IVF and Surrogacy have made their way into the mainstream, so it should cloning be allowed to develop and become part of society.

Regardless of unethical considerations of the artificial reproduction of humans, there is a debate on whether it is feasible to clone livestock to fight issues like hunger, prevent pollution, and avoid the suffering of animals. On March 22nd of this year, the New York Post published an article discussing the word of Rabbi Yuval Cherlow – a prominent Orthodox in Israel – following Rabbi Menachem Genack, who is the head of New York’s Orthodox Union’s kosher division. Rabbi Cherlow said that “cloned meat produced from a pig shall not be defined as prohibited for consumption – including with milk”. He argued that when the cell of a pig is used, and its genetics are used in the production of food, the cell loses its “original identity” and therefore cannot be defined as “forbidden for consumption”. Jewish Law or Halakha has very clear rules on dietary restrictions, including what should or should not be eaten by the Jewish people. When the genetic material is used to generate the meat of a specific animal it is no longer that animal from which it came from. Likewise, as Broyde explains, the Halakha views cloning as less than the ideal way to reproduce people, but when there is no other method available then it accepts having children through cloning – it even considers it a mitzvah (commandment/good deed). He recognizes that while cloning science will proceed, some caution must be put in place of uncertainty. The natural tendency to prohibit the unknown is itself morally commendable virtue unless the activity is prohibited because of its consequences not being understood. In this case, the prohibition of what is not understood is under Jewish tradition regrettable. Jewish tradition commands those capable of discussing and resolving such matters to do so. The analysis is submitted to allow others to comment and critique it, and Jewish law will develop an established policy concerning various topics, in this case, cloning.

Even though Jewish Law seems to be tolerant towards cloning as an alternative reproductive system; the Catholic church does not seem to share the same perspective. In the Donum Vitae it is stated that “attempts or hypotheses for obtaining a human being without any connection with sexuality through “twin fission”, cloning or parthenogenesis are to be considered contrary to the moral law, since they are in opposition to the dignity both of human procreation and of the conjugal union”. The focus is on the consummation of marriage before conceiving a baby and it only accepts procreation what is considered traditional by the church’s standard. Due to differences within each faith, I cannot consider all religions to be isomorphic. Even amongst Catholic Sects. Protestants had to develop unique moral and theological positions. One way is to turn from the authority of the church as the interpreter of the biblical texts themselves. When, however, our subject is the new reproductive technologies we might guess in advance that this tried-and-true Protestant approach might have limited applicability; for, we are not likely to find a much direct explanation on the subject in the Old and New Testaments. Even though the texts do not give explicit guidance on these alternatives, there are examples that depict the procedures like surrogacy through the story of Abram, Sarai, and Hagar. Gilbert Meilander argues that this archetype places values procreation highly through the context of the establishment of a stable bond mother and father; nonetheless, the first and greatest command is not to have a family but to love God. He argues that Janet Dickey McDowell’s essay is an example of how one may plea to a vast array of biblical stories to find direction. However, the use of biblical references in different ways, in fact, Paul Simmons finds a symbolic value in accord with certain biblical values explains – when touching upon ‘Biotechnical Parenting –  that “These are parents by design, intention, and purpose. They will recognize their child as the extraordinary gift it truly is. They will not resent the pregnancy as an untimely accident or reject the child as an unwelcome intruder… To such commitment, every parent is called.” When comparing both, McDowell’s and Simmons’s, readings of biblical themes we can begin to see a basic issue emerge – an issue that directs our attention to a duality in human nature.

Furthermore, when analyzing Swasti Bhattacharyya’s book on Hindu Bioethics it is seen that there is no explicit reference to a practical set of rules apart from a set of “theoretical” laws written in the Laws of Manu, however, in chapter 2 there is a summary of the Mahabharata (book for Hindu moral Law) and an extensive reference to the stories of how the three queens Kunti, Munti, and Gandhari overcame the challenges of infertility to provide for their descendants. In these stories, there is an undertone of reproductive manipulation; for example, how Kunti and Madri deal with the curse placed upon their husband to call upon the G-ds to impregnate them or how Gandhari manipulates the product of her conception to bring the births of one hundred sons and one daughter. Bhattacharya extrapolates from these stories to show how they can be used to discuss bioethical issues such as fertility medications, sperm banks, donor artificial insemination, in vitro fertilization and embryonic transfer. Regardless of there not being a stated position on ‘Cloning’ as a viable reproductive pathway, it is safe to induce that the same acceptance is applicable to this relatively new approach to procreation.

In the end, it is hard to separate and classify under which conditions it should be allowed or prohibited to clone a living being. As with any new concept or idea, there is a socio-cultural acclimation period under which society tends to start forming thoughts and ethical standards. Despite the emotional attachment of the start of the vast discourse on the topic, logical reasoning rose upon the lack of information available to the public. Since February of 1997, when the announcement of the first successful cloning of a mammal (Dolly the Sheep), several other mammals have been successfully cloned. Despite it being a highly debated topic with enormous scientific potential, in July 2001 the House of Representatives banned human cloning. Furthermore, the National Bioethics Advisory Commission and the National Academy of Science called for “further consideration of ethical and social questions raised by cloning”. The upheaval of scientific research has led to many countries to partially banning cloning and only allowing research purposed efforts. It took over 25 years for homosexuality to be removed from the World Health Organization’s International Classification of Diseases, even though it still has attached the “ego-dystonic sexual orientation”. The initial emotional distress caused by a new idea cannot overshadow the logical reasoning, often the emotional system gets things done faster, but it is susceptible to make mistakes. While the controlled system makes the accurate decisions as well as makes corrections when necessary.

Citations:

Bhattacharyya, S. (2006). Voices from Hinduism’s Past. In Magical Progeny, Modern Technology (pp. 29 – 48). SUNY Press.

Burton, N. (2015, September 18). When Homosexuality Stopped Being a Mental Disorder. Retrieved from https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/hide-and-seek/201509/when-homosexuality-stopped-being-mental-disorder

Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. (1987, February 22). Instruction on respect for human life. Retrieved from http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/congregations/cfaith/documents/rc_con_cfaith_doc_19870222_respect-for-human-life_en.html

Krueger, J. I. (2010, June 18). Reason and emotion: A note on Plato, Darwin, and Damasio. Retrieved from https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/one-among-many/201006/reason-and-emotion-note-plato-darwin-and-damasio

Meilander, G. (1992). New Reproductive Technologies: Protestant Modes Of Thought. Retrieved from file:///C:/Users/ISIMKIN/Downloads/GilbertMeilaenderNewRepro.pdf

Modern Reproductive Technologies and Jewish Law. (n.d.). In M. J. Broyde & M. Ausubel (Eds.), Marriage, Sex, and Family in Judaism (pp. 295 – 317). Retrieved from https://reserves.library.emory.edu/Shib/ares.dllAction=10&Type=10&Value=447788

Pew Research Center. (2012, December 18). The Global Religious Landscape. Retrieved from http://www.pewforum.org/2012/12/18/global-religious-landscape-exec/

The President’s Council on Bioethics. (2002, July). PCBE: Human Cloning and Huma n Dignity: An Ethical Inquiry — Full Report. Retrieved from https://bioethicsarchive.georgetown.edu/pcbe/reports/cloningreport/execsummary.html

Steinbuch, Y. (2018, March 22). Rabbi: Eating genetically cloned pig is kosher. Retrieved from https://nypost.com/2018/03/22/rabbi-eating-genetically-cloned-pig-is-kosher/

 

Final Blog- Danielle Collett

Good afternoon esteemed congressmen and congresswomen,

As an infertility specialist who has spent much time working at various clinics across the world, I am extremely honored to have the opportunity to present my testimony on one of the most important issues of our time: assisted reproductive technology. As biotechnology continues to advance at a rapid pace, it is only fitting that we discuss the role that we must play in deciding the funding of such technology. I have spent the majority of my time working at clinics in Israel as well as studying the infertility treatment options and funding made available to patients in other countries. Because I specialize in IVF, or in-vitro fertilization, I have spent a great amount of time interviewing with patients who are interested in pursuing this course of treatment if they are unable to become pregnant. I have spoken with women across the United States, both those can afford the treatment and those who cannot. I continue to conduct research on the subject and am excited to share my findings with the Congress today and ultimately explain why the United States must continue to support this practice, and even consider increasing its funding for it. I will begin by discussing what in-vitro fertilization entails and the benefits of providing such technology to women across the world. I will bring to light some arguments against IVF that the Congress has previously mentioned, and will discuss why these no longer need to be concerns. I will then explain how in-vitro fertilization in the United States avoids kinship issues and is thus, an uncomplicated process with respect to the parent of the conceived child. I will conclude my testimony by discussing the current funding situation and how the United States is currently failing to provide adequate funding for such technology and most importantly, its need to increase such funding.

As an IVF specialist at the Atlanta Center for Reproductive Medicine, I have undergone significant training for practicing this form of assisted reproductive technology. In-vitro fertilization entails a process by which fertilization occurs outside of the body, hence “in vitro”. IVF may involve any combination of a mother’s own eggs and a husband’s sperm or donor eggs and sperm. Once the egg and sperm cells have been obtained, they are brought together in a laboratory for fertilization. The fertilized egg is then taken and “placed in a catheter, which is inserted into the woman’s uterus and released in the location that will maximize the possibility of conception” (Kahn 39). In previous discussions, the Congress brought up its concern that the remaining fertilized eggs “will be destroyed after the success of one fertilization” and it must recognize the ethical considerations for this (Haimowitz, “Made in India”). However, as technology continues to progress, scientists and researchers are using the remaining fertilized eggs to be cyropreserved for future use, rather than merely destroying them. The countless stories of successful IVF procedures strengthens my argument that IVF should not merely be permitted in the United States, but rather, should be an event that is celebrated and made available to women from all socioeconomic backgrounds.

In Susan Kahn’s ethnographic work, Reproducing Jews, she describes a number of women’s experience with IVF, particularly those in Jerusalem. Most importantly, she makes it clear that the process is safe and continues to make pregnancy a possibility for women with a range of infertility issues. She shares an account with one of the women she interviewed who partook in the IVF process that felt much less clinical and more like that of a family atmosphere. Kahn shares the story of Etti who describes how “it was so un-clinical. It [felt] like an extended family that really [wanted] me to get pregnant. [She] found it warm (hamama) and pleasant” (Kahn 26). This should be the type of treatment and experience clinics in the United States models and provides for patients looking to engage in IVF treatments. In my experience as an IVF specialist, many of the women who come to me have accepted that they will become single mothers, and I recognize that this is not an easy decision to make. These intimate and intense relationships that Kahn describes in her book are quite similar to the relationships I have fostered with my patients in Israel. As technology continues to progress, the idea of the “nuclear family” is continuing to dissolve and as a country, it is imperative that we support this change. In Israel, reproductive clinics believe that, “every baby is a blessing and that every woman deserves to be a mother” (Kahn 27). This most likely stems from the Jewish interpretation of the first two chapters of Genesis. While these chapters tell a cosmology of how God created the universe, they also introduce ideas of kinship, marriage, and reproduction. In line 28, Genesis reads, “God blessed [male and female] and said to them, ‘Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it” (Gen. 1:28). It is clear that the text supports God’s idea that humankind should reproduce. Because the Israeli Supreme Court believes that chapter one in Genesis makes it clear that God commands His people to reproduce, this support for reproductive practices despite marital status is found throughout Israel. Kahn notes that the Israeli government plays an extremely unique role in the lives of potential mothers– there is no separation of Church and state. It is important to note that I am not advocating for a separation of Church and state, but rather merely pointing out the importance of supporting of IVF practices for potential mothers.

In order to further understand the benefits of IVF, it is imperative to understand that “reproduction, in its biological and social senses, is inextricably bound up with the production of culture” (Rapp 88). It is therefore necessary to examine reproduction via IVF cross-culturally. If we examine the assisted reproductive technology practices in India, it is clear that the cost is significantly more affordable than in the United States. India recognizes the importance of IVF and the benefits it brings to women. In Bhattacharyyas’s Magical Progeny, Modern Technology: A Hindu Bioethics of Assisted Reproductive Technology, she delves into her interpretation of how the Mahabharata, the longest epic ever written, can be used to explain various bioethical issues in India. She outlines the “six key elements” of Hinduism: centrality of societal good, belief in the unity of all life, dharma, the multivalent nature of Hindu traditions, karma, and ahisma or commitment to do no harm (Bhattacharyya 49). IVF would most likely fall under the elements of dharma and karma. The decision to engage in IVF would follow the action of dharma, while the decision to take responsibility for that action would fall under the element of karma. Essentially, the decision for a mother to partake in IVF would not be dictated by a Hindu law, but would be left to the individual to decide and take responsibility for that action. Because the United States prides itself on individual freedom, it aligns similarly with these two Hindu principles when discussing the continuation of IVF. Women should have the freedom to decide whether or not they would like to partake in this form of reproductive technology, not the United States government.

As we continue to discuss IVF across various cultures, it is important to recognize Japan. In Japan, there are now over 600 fertility clinics and hospitals in operation nationwide. Similar to Israel, Japan is becoming known as a “superpower of fertility treatment” (Ivry 113). In Japan, women who are pregnant become labeled and redefined as an “important body” (Ivry 128) and they equate bearing children to “being blessed with treasure” or kodakara ni megumareru. Although this extreme is not the current culture in the United States, women across the country do “feel that having a child is a blessing” (Seeman 4), both those who have planned and unplanned pregnancies. As a result, when a woman in the United States faces infertility issues, she is presented with an option, such as IVF, to help circumvent such issues. Women who have ovulation disorders, genetic disorders, damaged fallopian tubes, or even have husbands whose sperm motility has been compromised, have the option to still bear children. IVF must be continued in order to provide women in the United States with the opportunity to, like women in Japan, be blessed with such “treasure”.

On the same vein, another benefit IVF can provide is the ability to provide gay and lesbian couples with the option to bear children. In her book, Kahn describes how, “Israeli lesbians often receive financial, emotional, and childcare support” (Kahn 53) and shares the interview she had with one lesbian woman who partook in IVF. The woman Kahn interviews describes how she was ostracized by her family for being both a lesbian and for wanting to have a child. However, after she engaged in IVF, “[her] mother changed completely and now comes by all the time, baby-sits, and even brings presents for her [partner’s] biological son” (Kahn 53). This is just one of the myriad of successful stories of reproduction that IVF makes possible for gay and lesbian couples. With the legalization of gay marriage in the United States three years ago, it is logical to continue to provide such technology for these couples. Times are progressing and changing. As a country, it is imperative that our laws and funding reflect these changing times, especially with respect to biotechnology and reproductive assistance.

Another angle in which to examine IVF practices is through the lens of kinship. In countries such as Israel, IVF can create kinship issues because as Broyde states, “genetic relationship does not establish legal relationship” (Broyde 328). In his work, Broyde describes how some assisted reproductive technology practices can create kinship issues because the gestational mother is considered to be the “real” mother. In this case, if a woman tries to use IVF and uses a surrogate mother, the Jewish law would deduce that the surrogate is the mother of the child. Thus, the child of the surrogate mother would not be permitted to marry any relatives of the surrogate. Broyde asserts that, “unlike the common law tradition and Jewish law, modern American law views status issues such as parenthood as something that law determines, rather than something that the law discovers” (Broyde 5). Congressmen and women, I urge you to understand the importance of Broyde’s statement: the American law can change the natural order of relationships in this view. As a society, we can avoid the kinship issues brought up in many, other countries because we have collectively decided to use court rulings and contracts in order to determine who the parents of children can be.

Although the United States has deemed IVF “acceptable,” it continues to hardly engage or provide funding for the practice. Unlike the United States, the Israeli government “heavily subsidizes all forms of technological treatment” (Kahn 16). The state policies set forth by the Israeli government not only help subsidize the treatment, they make it possible for unmarried women and single-mothers to have the option to reproduce. The Israeli state policies “subsidize the pursuit of single parenthood, contributing to the growing social acceptance of unmarried mothers” (Kahn 16). The United States should adopt similar principles, encouraging women who want to bear children, to do so. Unlike the United States, the Israeli government makes it possible for women from all socioeconomic classes to reproduce, not just those in the wealthy upper-class. It begs the question: why should money be the determinant of whether a woman  in the United States can reproduce? It shouldn’t be. The United States must consider funding IVF more sufficiently in order to assist women who struggle to bear children.

As Dr. Seeman describes in his work, Ethnography, Exegesis, and Jewish Ethical Reflection, whether it is “in Israel, India, or Japan, each of these contexts shapes the ways in which ostensibly universal technologies like IVF or surrogacy are practiced and understood” (Seeman 5). IVF is being practiced, improved, and increasingly funded in countries across the world. In fact, it is important to understand how other countries view and use IVF in order to help the United States determine the benefits of continuing such technology. Because “when we learn to think of this diversity as a resource for comparative deliberation, it will become clear that what happens in Israel should be of concern to North Americans at least as much as North American paradigms” (Seeman 5). The benefits of IVF are immeasurable and are of paramount interest. This assisted reproductive technology makes it possible for women to have children despite any crippling infertility issues. This practice allows for gay and lesbian couples to bear children despite their sexual orientation. Most importantly, this form of biotechnology is not only one that needs to be continued, it must be more sufficiently funded in order to help future parents across the country have the reproductive freedom they deserve.

 

Bhattacharyya, Swasti. A Hindu Bioethics of Assisted Reproductive Technology. State University of New York Press, 2006.

Book of Genesis, chapters 1-2 <www.webpages.uidaho.edu/PDF/166/20Genesis.pdf)>.

Broyde, Michael J. Marriage, Sex, and the Family in Judaism. Rowman & Littlefield, 2005.

Ivry, Tispy. Embodying Culture: Pregnancy in Japan and Israel (Rutgers University Press, 2009).   

Seeman, Don, et al. “Blessing Unintended Pregnancy: Religion and the Discourse of Women’s Agency in Public Health.” Medicine Anthropology Theory, vol. 3, no. 1, pp. 29–54.

Seeman, Don. “Ethnography, Exegesis and Jewish Ethical Reflection: The New Reproductive Technologies in Israel.” In Daphna Birenbaum-Carmeli and Yoram S. Carmeli editors, Kin, Gene, Community: Reproductive Technologies Among Jewish Israelis (Berghahn Books, 2010), pp. 340-362.

Kahn, Susan. Reproducing Jews: A Cultural Account of Assisted Conception in Israel (Duke University Press, 2000).

Rayna, Rapp. Testing Women, Testing the Fetus (Routledge, 2000).

Logical Cloning – Jack Hester Final Paper

Human has been and remains a topic of both scientific and political consideration. Debate over its legality and funding should be seen as important. After all, human lives lie in the balance. Furthermore, some would note that many religions and cultures stand against cloning, regardless of efficacy or safety. For example, Islam “privileges—even mandates—biological descent and inheritance. Preserving the “origins” of each child, meaning his or her relationships to a known biological mother and father, is considered not only an ideal in Islam, but a moral imperative “(Inhorn 2006: 95). Certainly, some religious or cultural groups will remain firmly against personal use of cloning technology, similarly to some technologies that are already available. But permitting limited and highly regulated cloning research does not—and should not—require a particular group to take advantage of cloning as a reproductive option or adopt any other technologies that result from cloning research.

The debate over permitting and funding human cloning technologies obviously extends far beyond individuals’ rights to choose or refuse to use human cloning for reproduction. While this discussion and ensuing recommendations places strictly personal opinion on the backburner, it still hopefully relies on logical arguments that seem reasonable. The first portion of this article focuses on scientific concerns with cloning and the second half focuses on moral and ethical concerns frequently raised in debates over cloning, which I might argue is actually at the heart of many peoples’ decisions about whether or not cloning should be allowed and funded.

A major scientific concern is the high morbidity rates of mammal clone morbidity. As noted in a publication from President Bush’s panel on bioethics, “more than 90 percent of attempts to initiate a clonal pregnancy do not result in successful live birth” (Kass 2002: xxv). Firstly, the permitting and funding of human cloning research does not have to mean that researchers are immediately able to attempt a cloned human birth, but rather that they should take as many precautions as possible when deciding how to attempt the first human clone birth. Even so, it is important to recognize that practices like IVF do not rely on a single fertilized egg cell to result in pregnancy.

In addition to the concerns with morbidity rates, there would likely be, currently, a high rate of transplant rejection once the cells are placed back into a human for fetus development. I would raise a similar counterargument to the one regarding morbidity rates. If a human is to ever be successfully cloned, then research that will focus on creating safe transplant and birth methods through new technologies tested on other animals must progress.

A final scientific issue I will discuss is the concern surrounding the fate of embryos that could be used for only research purposes. Especially for people who consider termination of a fetus of any age to be murder and sinful, the fact that “all extractions of stem cells from human embryos, cloned or not, involve the destruction of these embryos” is an obvious problem (xxvii). If this is the major concern, then legislation can be put into place that restricts the use of embryos for stem cell research and stops funds for any groups who are engaging in human embryo destruction for research purposes. It is likely possible to make major advancements in cloning technology and methods by using other animals, and there are now methods for stem cell creation that do not require the use of embryos.

As a last note on strictly scientific research regulations, I would not disagree that “The ethical and policy issues regarding cloning-for-biomedical-research deserve to be considered in the context of all human embryo research. Regulatory mechanisms… should be part of a larger regulatory program governing all research involving human embryos” and there should be “appropriate institutions to advise and shape federal policy in this arena” (222-223). It is essential to repeatedly examine institutions and their research practices to maintain safety and respect for human life. Obviously, these previous scientific arguments alone are not sufficient when addressing the larger landscape of human cloning and approval of human cloning technologies. I would propose, in fact, that the limitations on and concerns about human cloning may be more deeply rooted in protecting human and cultural identity and dignity. As an example, an Israeli committee, when faced with the potential need for legislation banning cloning, maintained that “consensus existed in the committee that cloning per se did not pose any problems; the only problem was with scientific experimentation on humans. …the committee concluded there was no need for any new law. Nevertheless, once the law had been proposed, it was not feasible to simply ignore it” (Prainsack 2006: 191). It seems that addressing issues of treatment of cloned individuals is critical and foundational in the debate over human cloning.

Lack of or confusion about individuality and identity is one major argument against human cloning. This argument can be generally summed up as “cloned children may experience serious problems of identity both because each will be genetically virtually identical to a human being … and because [their lives are] shadowed by constant comparisons to the life of the “original (Kass xxvii). Ensuring individuality and opportunity for a person, whether cloned or otherwise, is important. But what is missing in this argument is the fact that the actual physical act of cloning—the literal scientific procedure—is not actually the cause of any specific expectation on a cloned individual. Rather, a cloned child’s upbringing is what will actually determine its character and degree of individual choice. Dignified relationships with family can be maintained regardless of the method of conception in many cultures, as is evidenced by the successful implementation of IVF not only in the United States, but in many other countries such as Israel.

Issues of kinship and family relations are also frequently cited by those opposing cloning research. Kinship is no doubt important to discuss, both because of the importance of strong and supportive relationships between the cloned person and others, as well as the necessity of understanding citizens’ cultural beliefs. Discussions of reproduction are frequently “intimately linked” with those of culture and production of culture (Kahn 2000: 88). If the dominant cultural groups feel that permitting research into human cloning is inconsistent with their beliefs about reproduction of family, then there may be massive public pushback that is damaging towards future research opportunities. Having said that, a slow rollout of policies permitting more and more direct human cloning is likely to mitigate much of this risk, especially since many people with diverse cultural backgrounds, including Jewish individuals with strong emphasis on the role of family and motherhood, believe that family and kinship roles can be preserved even while cloning humans (Broyde 2005: 299). It seems possible to slowly begin approving and funding groups with the goal of eventual human reproduction through cloning without destroying the public’s diverse ideas of kinship.

Furthermore, on a less obvious level, parents can already select sperm and egg donors for children. Not only can future parents select donors with obviously attractive characteristics, (physical or otherwise), but they can also pre-screen the embryos before implantation or perform genetic tests on the donors to select for or against certain traits in their children. Other advancements in genetic screening and editing are beginning to provide even more control over traits and genes in future children. If this is permitted, then it seems logical that cloning should not be prevented due to fears of genetic selection.

Now that many of the main debates surrounding cloning have been analyzed in depth, it is possible to make policy and funding recommendations. It should be permissible to study human cloning. It would seem to me that, in general, moral qualms with reproductive cloning are not substantially backed with strong and deep arguments, so long as individuals are able to choose whether or not to use cloning, and scientific advancements through non-human studies will likely facilitate safe human clone births. Furthermore, funding from the United States government will allow the government to hold recipients of grants and other money highly accountable in ensuring safe cloning studies and practices.

In addition to the previous discussions about scientific and ethical concerns, there are other reasons that regulated cloning research is not merely “allowable” but also potentially beneficial. By understanding more about cloning cells, future technologies such as well-adapted, personalized organs may become a reality, even without the sacrificing of a human life to attain them. These recommendations, however, come with warnings and important future examinations. For example, once scientific progress is sufficient to actually produce a human safely, there will need to be careful consideration including policy in place to protect cloned individuals, even before they’re actually reproduced. There is no room for a “guinea pig” human that is likely to be born with significant defects or to be unnecessarily seen as an anomaly in society and not respected. The first humans born through cloning must not only be treated with as much respect as another human, but it is imperative that they are born into a supportive family and community that will provide a sense of kinship: “The human mind operates through a few general mechanisms that give humans the flexibility to create and learn a wide array of behaviors and to shape their behavior by reference to diverse cultural ideas, beliefs, and values (not just a cost-benefit utilitarian logic focused only on reproductive maximization)” (McKinnon and Silverman 2005: 127). Kinship is important in not only fostering a sense of belonging, but also shapes an individual’s perspective and beliefs. This is critical for an individual born out of cloning reproduction. Furthermore, while seemingly unlikely in large countries like the United States, it is worth ensuring that genetic diversity remains high and incestuous relationships are prevented. Questions of access to cloning technology will need to be considered, and human cloning should not be seen as a luxury only available to the most affluent.

By no means am I suggesting that labs should be permitted to create a human clone immediately after legislative and funding adjustments. Rather, legislation should continue to change in small increments and adapt as research progresses. In addition, the state of cloning must be continually audited, and legislators should be ready to adapt laws to potentially unforeseen consequences of the research, (something that will likely prove very difficult). Throughout this entire process, the public must be educated about cloning and dignified treatment of cloned individuals. They must be reminded that just because a child looks the same as a donor does not mean that it will or should behave like the donor. Stigma must be mitigated wherever possible in an effort to reduce maltreatment of cloned individuals.

 

Citations:

Barbara Prainsack, “Negotiating Life: The Regulation of Human Cloning and Embryonic Stem Cell Research in Israel.” Social Studies of Science 2006: 173-205.

Leon R. Kass, Human Cloning and Human Dignity (President’s Council on Bioethics, 2002).

Marcia Inhorn, He Won’t Be My Son: Middle Eastern Men’s Discourses of Gamete Donation.” Medical Anthropology Quarterly 20 (2006): 94-120.

Michael Broyde, “Cloning People: A Jewish View.” Connecticut Law Review 30: 2503-2535.

Susan Martha Kahn, Reproducing Jews: A Cultural Account of Assisted Conception in Israel (Duke University Press, 2000).

Susan McKinnon, “On Kinship and Marriage: A Critique of the Genetic and Gender Calculus of Evolutionary Psychology,” In S. McKinnon and S. Silverman editors, Complexities: Beyond Nature and Nurture, 106-131 (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2005).

 

Final Blog – Emmerynn Wheelan

Dear People of the Congress,

I am here today in support of various reproductive technologies such as adoption and gamete donation. As a medical anthropologist, I am extremely invested in the opinions held and stigma surrounding the use of technology in a medical and reproductive setting. A main goal in the field of anthropology that lives close to my heart is the goal and mission to, “Make the strange familiar, and the familiar strange.” With this idea in mind, my goal here today is to familiarize the people of the Congress with the facts about reproductive technology and to dispel any myths stemming from miscommunication and miseducation.

First, a conversation about kinship is necessary to start with. Susan McKinnon, in her article “On Kinship and Marriage: A Critique of the Genetic and Gender Calculus of Evolutionary Psychology,” expresses the importance of defining these terms saying, “Systems of kinship terminology are important to consider not only because they reveal the differences in the organization of kinship relations cross-culturally but also because they constitute the categorical framework upon which distinct patterns of social behavior-including acts of nurturance, solidarity, and resource allocation-are built” (McKinnon, 110). While this idea might be controversial among experts in the field (social anthropologist and author of “What Human Kinship is Primarily About: Towards a Critique of the New Kinship Studies” Warren Shapiro argues that anthropologists rely too heavily on terminology), I feel it necessary to establish a solid set of definitions, so that all members of the Congress are on the same page and can continue accordingly. Kinship, then, is set by a feeling of relatedness, regardless of actual genetics. In my own understanding, there are three levels of kinship in today’s world. The first, and probably most obvious, understanding shows genetic relatedness. An example of this first type is a child, otherwise known as “next of kin.” According to very early anthropologists, this type of kinship relationship is termed consanguineal (which literally means related by blood) kinship. The second known level of kinship defines personal choice, of affinal kinship. This type of kinship is usually used to describe spouses. This is an interesting idea because this kind of kin, a pair of spouses, joins together and creates the first kind of kin we discussed, or a child. Finally, the last level of kin in my analysis is based on legal or cultural definitions. An example of this last category is in the case of a blended family, or that one “uncle” who is not really your biological uncle but actually your genetic father’s best friend from college. Along with this idea is that quote about friends being the family that you choose, which plays to the meaningful side of kinship. Early anthropologists called this type of kinship fictive kinship, as a sort of catch-all category for the more complicated relationships that do not fit neatly into the other categories.

Of course, these “definitions” are not always as clear cut as described above. For example, Marcia Inhorn in Medical Anthropology Quarterly explores some of these “blurry lines” regarding adoption and gamete donation in an article entitled “He Won’t Be My Son.” Inhorn discusses what is described as the local moral world, or “the commitments of social participants in a local world about what is at stake in everyday experience” (Inhorn, 96). Inhorn starts by explaining the cultural relevance of the Muslim world in Lebanon, which is a crucial step when setting the scene in anthropological research and writing. She states the choice of many Muslim men to continue their infertile marriage, even with present procedures that can lead to “social parenthood” (Inhorn, 95). This term is especially interesting, and makes a point in the debate related to the funding of these reproductive technologies. My interpretation and understanding, related to my argument, of this word phrasing is that of the close-ness that can be achieved between parent and child, even if not genetically related. In other words, does a social parent have less responsibility over their child than a biological parent? Are not the feelings and emotions expressed to this child the same between situations? I, as a medical anthropologist, am arguing in favor of the continuation of the set funding for reproductive technologies such as adoption and gamete donation based on this, among others, reasons.

The next important aspect to consider in favor of the use of technology in relation to reproductive techniques such as adoption and gamete donation is religion and moral beliefs. Also in “He Won’t Be My Son,” author Inhorn discusses the idea of “purity of lineage” and its close relation to religious views and marital happiness (Inhorn, 95). Speaking of religion, the relationship between religious and morals to that of ethical decisions surrounding reproductive technology can be quite complicated. Inhorn states this idea well, saying, “Local moralities are perhaps best exposed when new health technologies confront deeply embedded religious and ethical traditions. Such traditions may embrace new biotechnologies, but prohibit aspects of those technologies that do not meet with religious moralities” (Inhorn, 96). In other words, when push comes to shove, there comes a time to put your money where your mouth is and take action. It is easy to be faithful to a certain sect of a particular religion, but when that morals are tested, the person and their beliefs are also tested. An interesting distinction that Inhorn made, then, in approaches surrounding these varying religious beliefs include both the Sunni and Shi’ite populations. These religious opinions are vastly different from that of our Western world, however, and this idea must be considered. In Sunni Islam, Inhorn explained, what is called a “donor child” is considered “illegitimate,” while the implementation of another adult in the creation of a child (for example, gamete donation) falls under the sin of adultery (Inhorn, 103). Shifting to the idea of adoption, the majority of the Shi’ite Islam population’s responses used in Inhorn’s work rejected the idea of raising another child (through adoption) as their own (Inhorn, 103). Although the main argument against these technologies is as a result of the idea that resulting child “won’t be my son,” Muslim men are still considering and thus spearheading the movement and shifting of these long-held ideals. Inhorn states, “Religious moralities in the Muslim world can be seen as processual and shifting in response to the new developments in science and technology that are rapidly globalizing to the 22 nations of the Muslim Middle East” (Inhorn, 97). For this reason, continued funding towards the progression of reproductive technologies such as adoption and gamete donation is crucial, especially in non-Western settings as ideals continue to change and adapt.

In terms of my own personal opinion as a medical anthropologist, I have strong feelings towards the continuation of funding towards that of the reproductive technologies of adoption and gamete donation. Regardless of strict religious beliefs against the use of these technologies, the option, in my opinion, must continue to be offered. Based on Marcia Inhorn’s analysis of the Muslim world and the ideas held about adoption and gamete donation, which she claims are changing as quickly now as ever, is will not be long before the ideas held in favor of these technologies by the minority population will become the majority. As this article was published in Medical Anthropology Quarterly over 10 years ago in 2006, these ideals might have already gone over a complete and drastic transformation.

In the field of medical anthropology, an important ideal that is regularly discussed is the idea of cultural competence, or the practice of consulting other populations, cultures, religions, etc. in relation to differing beliefs about various subjects. By consulting Inhorn’s discussion of the status of the Muslim world, we, in a Western society, can gain a look into another culture that also experiences the struggles associated with fertility. Also, it is important to keep in mind during these religious debates the common goal of all reproductive technologies: reproduction. In all of the ethical and moral debates, there is a family that is looking to make an addition, whether that be a couple that has been trying to have children with no success for years, or a widowed older woman looking to regain a familial element. All of these cases are valid in searching for the completion of their family, no matter the cost. As discussed by Inhorn in her article in her definition of local moral world mentioned earlier in my argument, the importance in these debates lies with what is at stake for each population and each case. As with most cases in bioethics and ethics in general, these situations of the use of reproductive technologies are better suited to be evaluated and discussed on a personal, case by case basis, so that the overall goal of the creation of a child is not lost. By being able to put a face to the name and a name to the testimony, as Inhorn does in her hard-hitting and shocking article, this importance is realized and emphasized. In conclusion, by choosing to continue the funding of reproductive technologies such as adoption and gamete donation, as I decided to support for the reasons listed above, these families can become complete and dreams can be made a reality.

Sincerely,

Families of the Future

 

Sources:

Inhorn, Marcia C. ““He Won’t Be My Son”” Medical Anthropology Quarterly, vol. 20, no. 1, 2006, pp. 94–120.

McKinnon, Susan. “On Kinship and Marriage: A Critique of the Genetic and Gender Calculus of Evolutionary Psychology” Complexities: Beyond nature and Nurture, 2005, pp. 106-131.

Blog 3: Ira Golub

With the recent announcement of Justice Anthony Kennedy’s retirement from the Supreme Court of the United States, a decades old issue has regained public attention – abortion and the rights of both a woman and the developing baby inside of her. In a landmark vote of 7 to 2 in favor of Jane Roe, an alias for the abortion-seeking plaintiff Norma McCorvey, over Dallas County District Attorney Henry Wade, the highest court mandated the right to women’s privacy, as “broad enough to encompass a woman’s decision whether or not to terminate her pregnancy” (Roe v. Wade, 1973). The most recent gossip on Capitol Hill pertains to President 45’s interest in using his power to get the rule repealed; his son Don Jr. even took to Twitter and called it “lit” that Justice Kennedy was retiring. The moral and ethical ambiguity of the very core of the issue at hand makes for an extremely difficult decision if the case were to be brought back to SCOTUS. Fortunately, many Anthropologists, Theologists and various scholars have written a variety of works attempting to interpret the rights of both a mother and her prenatal child in this scenario.

Within the most popular, sensationalized, interpreted and widely recognized religious text of all time, The Holy Bible, specifically in the first two chapters of Genesis, there is actually no reference to the prenatal nature of life in context. Verse 26 of chapter one reads, “And God said, let us make man in our image, after our likeness,” and continues in verse 28, saying, “and God said unto them, be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion…” (Bible.com). In this interpretation, God concludes at the end of chapter two of Genesis that Adam and Eve “shall be one flesh” (Bible.com). Interestingly enough, the Cosmological story behind human creation according to this scripture does not reference the creation of child in its foundation, and God is simply able to craft man and woman with the swift of his wishes. God does not directly reference the creation thereafter right away, yet this piece of text has been widely used and interpreted by experts to form opinions on the matter of prenatal rights long thereafter its inception and recording.

In a piece referred to as Donum Vitae, published in 1987, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, a branch of the Catholic Church, attempts to offer guidance to its following on the prenatal rights of a child. The Church emphasizes that Donum Vitaeis, quote, “Instruction on respect for human life in its origin and the dignity of procreation” (Donum Vitae). With the text, the authors proclaim, “Thus the fruit of the human generation, from the first moment of its existence, that is to say from the moment the zygote has formed, [it] demands the unconditional respect that is morally due to the human being in his bodily and spiritual totality” (Donum Vitae). The zygote, the literal first cell of a new organism that is produced when the nuclei of the two gametes have fused according to the text, is an indication of life. Therefore, the writers infer that a person is due respect according to this doctrine from the very moment of their existence, at the very fusion and establishment of their first cell. By this interpretation, any sort of prenatal termination of pregnancy, i.e. abortion, if purposeful, is completely and utterly frowned upon. That prenatal child, although it has yet to be birthed, has surpassed the zygotic stage of pregnancy and, according to Donum Vitae, undisputedly has a right of life. In a later section of the text, there is clear messaging as the authors reference a note at the Second Vatican Council, “Life once conceived, must be protected with the utmost care; abortion and infanticide are abominable crimes,” and further, “… since the embryo must be treated as a person, it must also be defended in its integrity, tended and cared for, to the extent possible, in the same way as any other human being as far as medical assistance is concerned” (Donum Vitae). The argument could not be clearer; once there is a zygote, there is life that deserves the same exact care as a birthed human would receive in the same circumstances.

In a review of Jewish law, referred to as Halakhah, Michael Broyde offers a perspective most similar to The Church’s stance in Donum Vitae in his work Marriage, Sex and the Family in Juadism. Enveloped quite simply in a list of statements, Broyde states, “… Activity that is prohibited (asur). For example, an abortion for reason unacceptable to Jewish law is prohibited” (Broyde 309). He addresses this topic earlier in his piece, writing, “… Jewish law prohibited the killing of a deaf-mute, a lunatic, or an infant… as the Encyoclpedia Talmudit states: ‘a person who is born from another person – in the womb of a woman – is prohibited to be killed” (Broyde 306). Essentially, Broyde is deducing from Jewish law that it is wholesomely frown upon to kill, or even harm, the life of an infant (or unborn) child. Even beyond frowned upon, he describes the act of abortion as fully prohibited (asur), which is an act of defiance towards God. It is important to note that Broyde’s piece and Donum Vitae are rather contradictory at times, and although they are not written with the same intention or yield the same conclusions, similar stances on abortion do seem clear, logical and apparent.

Thereafter Broyde’s work and Donum Vitae, a 2002 report under the presidency of George W. Bush on human cloning offers more insight to the issue at hand. Under a section on moral principles, the report states, “Even where a right to abortion is given, it is based on a woman’s right not to be encumbered, a right of privacy, not a right to directly kill the fetus.” (Kass 268). Kass and his team continue, and elaborate that there is an established principle of human life that respects the sanctity, or inviolability, of that life, that “we naturally grant as we recognize in the other a being of moral equivalence to ourselves” (Kass 268). The report clearly establishes that the justification to abort a prenatal fetus is directly related to a woman’s right to choose, and by all means surpasses the right of a baby to live and have the same ‘inalienable’ rights that a citizen of the United States is supposedly due.

Also, it is especially interesting to note that the work of Kass and his counterparts is requested upon by the president at the time of the report, and that the information gathered worked as an official government document going forward. Although the writers have a clear point to address human cloning and ultimate give President Bush recommendations going forward on the subject at hand, they are intentional to note that abortion is by no means an acceptable or necessary measure to avoid childbirth, and that it is both ethically and morally frowned upon.

Fascinatingly enough, scholar Swasti Bhattacharyya also offers key insights on the rights of a prenatal human in her book from a different angle – through the eyes of the Hindu tradition. In her study of the Mahabharata, an ancient Hindi collection of stories, Bhattacharryya establishes, “… Hindu texts reflect a respect for the developing fetal life and argue that it is deserving of protect for the developing fetal life and argue that it is deserving of protection from harm… the fetus is conscious and even has a memory of his or her previous births” (Bhattacharrya location 1312). Yet again, another interpretation of key religious texts that have helped to shape an entire society, suggest that there are certain respects to be paid to a human, even if that human is in the prenatal stage of life. Bhattacharyya’s work, while it comes later than all previously mentioned works, still reiterates ideas that are evident throughout these works.

Throughout this blog, I have examined Catholic culture according to Donum Vitae, Michael Broyde’s explanation of Jewish law in relation to cloning and prenatal rights, a government report written by a team of well-respected scholars on cloning research, and Swasti Bhattacharryya’s view on prenatal rights from a Hindu angle. It is clear that most religious and scholarly establishments would argue in favor of the rights of the prenatal human rather than outside opinions or involved parties that might not respect the wishes of the fetus or what might be best for them.

 

Sources:

Roe v. Wade, 410 U.S. 113, 1973

The Bible. Authorized King James Version, Bible.com, 2018.

Donum VitaeIn Shanon, Thomas A. And Lisa Sowle Cahill, Religion and Artificial Reproduction: An Inquiry into the Vatican “Instruction on Respect for Human Life in its Origin and on the Dignity of Reproduction.”(Crossroad, 1988).

Michael J. Broyde, “Modern Reproductive Technologies and Jewish Law,” In

Michael J. Broyde and Michael Ausubel editors, Marriage, Sex and the Family in

Judaism. (Rowman and Littlefield, 2005), pp. 295-328. (e-reserve)

Leon R. Kass, Human Cloning and Human Dignity(President’s Council on Bioethics, 2002).

Swasti Bhattacharya, Magical Progeny, Modern Technology: A Hindu Bioethics of Reproductive Technology(Suny University Press, 2006).

 

***disclaimer***

I do not personally agree with the opinion that I support in my blog. I realize that I am writing in a manner that suggests I am ‘pro-life’. I strongly support a woman’s right to choose, although I believe the evidence I have presented suggests that, interpretively, a prenatal human does have inalienable rights to life. This issue is currently extremely controversial, and I do not want to make my stance on it unclear or seem as though I have a controversial opinion.