In his recent book, Imagining the Future, Yuval Levin succinctly identified the source of so many of our cultural problems today. It was a real "Bingo!" moment for me: Society has ceased to be primarily about promoting virtue. Rather, our primary drive as a culture today is to prevent all suffering. In that Quixotic quest, we have created an anything goes society driven by individual desire and yearning that tosses the principle of the common good to the wind.
IVF is a vivid case in point: In the wake of the birth of octuplets via IVF to Nadya Suleman --who had been implanted with six embryos, and due to twinning gave birth to eight babies--legislators in two states are finally seeking to rein in IVF with reasonable regulations based on already published professional ethical guidelines. And I am sure you will be shocked to learn that the efforts have hit the unlimited reproductive freedom wall. From the story:
Lawmakers in two states, outraged by the California mother of octuplets, are seeking to limit the number of embryos that may be implanted by fertility clinics.
The legislation in Missouri and Georgia is intended to spare taxpayers from footing the bill for women having more children than they can afford. But critics say the measures also would make having even one child more difficult for women who desperately want to become mothers. "What they are proposing is a cookie-cutter, one-size-fits-all approach," said Dr. Andrew Toledo, medical director of Reproductive Biology Associates in Atlanta. "Not every couple and not every patient is the same."
Infertility doctors argue that decisions on how many embryos to transfer should be left up to medical experts familiar with a patient's individual circumstances.
Then shut up about Suleman and the doctor who implanted her. Just because you would have made a different choice doesn't give you the right to moralize.
Decades ago Leon Kass warned that IVF, originally created to help infertile married couples have children, would lead to an anything goes mentality. He was mocked, but he was right. We were told then, as we are being told now, that we didn't have to regulate the field because we should trust patients and doctors to make responsible choices.
The difference is that now we know we can't: Unregulated IVF led to overproduction, resulting in hundreds of thousands of frozen embryos. This led to our looking at nascent human beings as objects rather than subjects, natural resources ripe for exploitation in scientific and medical research.
Unregulated IV--ironically along with unlimited abortion--also contributed to the idea that there is an unlimited fundamental right to have a genetically related child--as perhaps millions of children can't find adoptive homes. This, in turn, led to ever more extreme methods to exercise that right--surrogate motherhood, paying eugenically correct young women to risk their lives and health to provide eggs for wealthy couples who want only the most intelligent and beautiful offspring, post menopausal motherhood, using poor women as if they were brood mares, discriminatory sex selection, the eugenic practice of testing and discarding embryos that don't fit our health or cosmetic desires, not to mention contributing to advocacy for human cloning, genetic engineering, and transhumanist utopianism.
This might not have happened had we controlled the technology instead of letting it control us. But now it is probably too late: We have become a society in which even the most reasonable efforts to promote the general welfare almost always lose to Oprah-style hyper emotionalism that focuses on the pain such restrictions might have on individuals rather than on the bigger picture. But the understandable tears of people desperate to have children have been used as the lubricant to produce a reproductive moral anarchy that now includes in that expectation, the right to not only have a child but the child we want, and it is driving us to a new eugenics in which 90% of Down children are aborted and people are throwing away embryos because they might get adult onset cancer or won't have the desired hair or eye color.
This is not to say that we shouldn't care about people's unhappiness and anguish. Of course we should. But their tears have driven us into terminal nonjudgmentalism that prevents us from hitting the brakes to keep from driving off a moral cliff.
The same phenomenon drives other issues of concern to SHS, as well. We are all Wile E. Coyote about to hit the desert floor.