October 8, 2013

Lesbian Eugenics marches on

Last month in Taki's Magazine, I wrote about Bill Clinton-lookalike Frances Frei, the Dean of Something at the Harvard Business School, and her war on slutty Halloween costumes. I mentioned that Frei is gay-married to a former student at HBS named Anne Morriss. Now, a reader points out that, in one of those iSteve Convergences, Morriss is involved with a new Lesbian Eugenics firm. From the BBC:
Genepeeks firm to offer 'digital baby' screen for sperm donors 
By Paul Rincon

A service that digitally weaves together the DNA of prospective parents to check for potential disease in thousands of "virtual babies" is set to launch in the US by December. 
New York start-up Genepeeks will initially focus on donor sperm, simulating before pregnancy how the genetic sequence of a female client might combine with those of different males. 
Donors that more often produce "digital children" with a higher risk of inherited disorders will be filtered out, leaving those who are better genetic matches. 
Everything happens in a computer, but experts have raised ethical questions. 
"We are just in the business right now of giving prospective mothers, who are using donor sperm to conceive, a filtered catalogue of donors based on their own underlying genetic profile," Genepeeks co-founder Anne Morriss told BBC News. 
"We are filtering out the donor matches with an elevated risk of rare recessive paediatric conditions." ...
She was motivated in part by her own experience of starting a family. Her son was conceived with a sperm donor who happened to share with Morriss the gene for an inherited disorder called MCADD. 
MCADD (medium-chain acyl-CoA dehydrogenase deficiency) prevents those affected from converting fats to sugar. It can be fatal if it is not diagnosed early. 
Luckily, in Ms Morriss's case, the condition was picked up in newborn screening tests. 
"My son has a pretty normal life," Ms Morriss said, "but about 30% of children with rare genetic diseases don't make it past the age of five." 
Genepeeks has formalised a partnership with a sperm bank - the Manhattan Cryobank - and has a patent pending on the DNA screening technology. ...
Ms Morriss's business partner, Prof Lee Silver, a geneticist and expert on bioethics at Princeton University, New Jersey, told BBC News: "We get the DNA sequence from two prospective parents. We simulate the process of reproduction, forming virtual sperm and virtual eggs. We put them together to form a hypothetical child genome.

Lee Silver, another blast from the past. The Human Genome Project came with a rider mandating 5% of the money be spent on ethics experts. Thus, Lee Silver was omnipresent in the media back around 2000.
"Then we can look at that hypothetical genome and - with all the tools of modern genetics - determine the risk that the genome will result in a child with disease. 
We're looking directly for disease and not carrier status. For each pair of people that we're going to analyse, we make 10,000 hypothetical children." 
The process will be run for the client and each potential donor one by one, scanning for some 600 known single-gene recessive conditions. In this way, the highest-risk pairings can be filtered out. 

If you are going to spend money for donor sperm, why not?

I could imagine a scenario -- feel free to use this in a Lifetime movie -- in which a woman is choosing between Donor X and Donor Y, and Genepeeks says Donor Y is clean but Donor X has a 1 out of 1000 chance of horrible Disease Z. But the lady says, But, from their pictures, I like X's smile more than Y's, so I'll go with Donor X. But then the baby is born with Disease Z, for which the mother can't forgive herself. Until, she discovers that ... well, I don't know what the plot twist would be because I lose interest in making up my own narratives with consistent rapidity.

But the subject of babymaking is inherently interesting.

Here's Razib's analysis of what Genespeek is selling.

15 comments:

Big Bill said...

Funny how the word "eugenics" and the name "Hitler" never arise in these learned yuppie NYT articles.

It is as though a national plan for "better babies" is evil, but parents can indulge their genetic engineering at will ... if they have the money, of course.

Auntie Analogue said...


"But then the baby is born with Disease Z, for which the mother can't forgive herself. Until, she discovers that ... "

...that the donor-matching service is owned by Evil Male Genius Doctor Percival Braynerd, whose surreptitiously-gathered computer profile of the prospective mother turned up the male facial types that aroused her passion, so that the Evil Male Genius conned the woman into "selecting" the donor with Disease Z because...

...Evil Male Genius Braynerd also owns a medical research outfit that rakes in billions in Government and private grants to find a cure for Disease Z...

...so Evil Male Genius has a little overlap there, a slight, shall we say, conflict of interests...

...and this is where Gina Gershon [or pick your favorite lesbian Hollywood icon] struts in, hacks the Evil Male Genius's computers, tricking them into downloading all of Evil Doctor Braynerd's damning business and research particulars to Eric Holder's Department of Justice which then files a fraud and civil rights and malicious intent suit against Braynerd, which bankrupts the Evil Genius by forcing him to surrender his enormous riches to the mothers he's scammed into picking Disease Z donors, and has the judge sentence him to ten consecutive life sentences plus 10,000 years with no parole...

(...and, gee, we do have to let the Evil Male Genius live so that we can make bundle on sequels, don't we!)

Anonymous said...

Genepeek seems to want to offer what other companies, like Counsyl, already do, and probably with much better capability.

Anonymous said...

Many might consider a pre-disposition towards homosexuality possible evidence of a genetic defect. Certainly from a Darwinian perspective it lowers reproductive fitness with no apparent offsetting advantage. (At least, "no advantage" unless someone has demonstrated that the siblings of homosexuals have twice as many children as average and/or their cousins have four times as many!) There has also been a steadily accumulating collection of observations suggesting that abnormal "sexual orientations" may likely be the result of some type of infection by one or more micro-organisms and that there's probably some genetically determined predilection for and/or protection from such infections.

countenance said...

Any use for this, while we're on the subject?

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/lesbian-couples-twice-as-likely-as-gay-men-to-end-civil-partnership-as-divorces-up-by-20-8866454.html

My first and thus far only reaction has been to apply your axiom that "lesbians want to BE married, gay men want to GET married" to the situation.

SF said...

http://bigthink.com/users/francisfreiandannemorriss
I guess nepotism rules don't apply to lesbians

Marc B said...

Eugenics is exercised as a normal course of action in the creation of baster babies, and nobody ever alludes to Germany in the 1930s. There is also a lot of concern about choosing a donor with high cognition, like the popularity of the stereotypical medical students who are 6'2", with blonde hair and blue eyes. I suspect this may be another case of the who/whom.

Anonymous said...

Lesbians aren't gay, Steve. You know this better than anyone!

Anonymous said...

Ethically speaking, it seems this is the least they can do for a poor kid that they intentionally are depriving of actually knowing his own father.

NOTA said...

If I were in the market for sperm / egg donors for my future kids, I'd sure as hell want this data available. The set of people in the market for this data about sperm donors are:

a. Married / stable lesbian couples

b. Married male/female couples needing sperm because of the man's low sperm count.

c. Single women wanting a baby

My intuition is that stable lesbian couples are the only one of these groups likely to be able to form a self-conscious organized movement to support such things. Single women who want a baby can usually find a sperm donor the traditional fun way, and the subset who are going to want an unknown sperm donor and want to screen him for genetic diseases and such is pretty small. Infertile male/female couples needing this service will usually not want to announce it to the world, and won't have much else in common with one another.

NOTA said...

Big Bill:

The political/social movement of eugenics seems like it was focused on getting people to do stuff they didn't want to do--to convince or coerce some people not to have kids (by forcible sterilization surgery if necessary), or maybe to convince smarter/better people to have more kids.

The modern technological version is overwhelmingly focused on improving the traits of the kid you already plan to have--it's mainly helping people do something they already want to do. Thus:

a. Sex-selective abortion lets you choose the sex of your child.

b. Abortion of kids with Downs and other problems lets you avoid the heartache and lifelong demanding commitment of resources of taking care of a severely disabled kid.

c. Pre-marital or pre-pregnancy genetic counseling helps you decide not to marry or have kids with someone with whom you're likely to have unhealthy kids. (But you can ignore the results, or marry and adopt, or marry and use a prescreened sperm/egg donor, or marry and use some kind of genetic screening of embryos or abortion of babies with genetic problems, or....)

d. Genetic screening of embryos lets you avoid some kinds of defects before the baby is even implanted, and may be able to give you control over some desired traits.

e. Genetic screening and selection of sperm and egg donors lets you get better odds of getting good traits and avoiding bad ones in your kids.

Most of this is stuff you already wanted. It's always easier to sell people stuff they already wanted (healthier, better-off kids, kids of a desired sex, height, intelligence, etc) rather than something they didn't want (no kids, more kids than they wanted).

Further, none of this requires any oppressive power of government. I certainly would not trust the US government (nor state governments) to implement any kind of coercive eugenics--I'd expect whatever good might be done to be *massively* outweighed by the loss of liberty and misuse of power that would surely result.

Anonymous said...

Ah yes, lesbian couples. Everything in the natural begetting of children must be "adjusted" to accommodate the unnatural begetting of children.
And raising of same. Mother Nature is a single mom now?

And the USA will "naturally" use force to make the World conform to its delusions. Hear the drumbeats over the Winter Olympics? Wait until the Pentagon has a critical mass of gays & lesbians... Pandoras box, indeed.
Since the health of females is paramount in America versus health care expenditures for males, how long until the cunnilingus cancer ribbon campaign is the concern du jour? They're just getting started, folks.

Reg Cæsar said...

I have a dream:

That a century from now, a more civilzed society will look back on gamete "donation" with the same horror that we have for slave auctions today.

GK Chesterton once said eugenics policies would fail because those smart enough to impress the eugenicists would be the first to tell them to bugger off-- "I'll rut with whomever I please!" In the same way, revulsion at third-party reproduction will be led by the descendants of donors and their customers, regardless of smug sellouts like Zach Wahls.

Reg Cæsar said...

(At least, "no advantage" unless someone has demonstrated that the siblings of homosexuals have twice as many children as average and/or their cousins have four times as many!)

No, all it takes is for the homos themselves to have as many or more children. I submit that this is the case. Why? Because in most times and places, celibacy (let alone gay life) is not an option, and most queers marry. And what is the best excuse for getting out of the hated sex act?

Why, frequent pregnancy!

…a severely disabled kid.

Kids with Downs are highly functional, not "severely disabled". People are aborting them for other reasons. Likely because they don't want to expend resources on someone who won't give them grandchildren. (It's certainly not the onus of a college fund!)

Anonymous said...

"Kids with Downs are highly functional, not "severely disabled"."

Some are. They have a lot unusual health problems and used to have a very short life expectancy, though that may have changed. I knew a guy who worked in a group home for retarded people.
High functioning or not, the Downs kids were definitely problematic, though sweet natured enough in most cases.