TECHNOLOGIZED HUMAN REPRODUCTION

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In their logic of « deconstruction » of all cultural elements stemming from several millennia of civilizations, the upstarts of the artificialization of human life could not neglect the way in which men and women have, until now, reproduced∙e∙s. In France, a recent debate on « PMA for all » illustrates the societal tensions that are caused by the novelties wanted by technophiles. Between « everything is allowed » and « everything is forbidden », there is a middle ground to be determined collectively and limits that should not be crossed at the risk of a progressive dehumanization of our societies.

Until about 40 years ago, the way of reproduction for humans was invariably the same: a man and a woman loved each other or were sexually attracted to each other, they got together and made a child (no need to draw you a picture…). However, medical progress has been made and increasingly complex techniques have been developed to compensate for sterility(1). In a second phase, the use of these techniques was claimed by people who opted for lifestyles other than the heterosexual couple. There are three types of medically assisted reproduction (MAP): artificial insemination (AID), in vitro fertilization (IVF) and surrogate motherhood ℠. The biomedical description of these three techniques is summarized in the boxes below.

SOCIAL ISSUES

This recent « disruption » in the reproduction of the human species obviously raises very profound ethical questions and provokes societal debates. It is therefore necessary to determine what the laws of each nation allow or do not allow. We can see that, except for GPA, to repair, to treat cases of infertility, the acceptance of these techniques is generalized in the West. But, as has already been denounced here, supporters of a total liberation from the constraints of human nature, such as transhumanists, wish to use these techniques for purposes other than medical.

In synergy, conscious or not, with transhumanists defending the creation of « augmented men », groups with unconventional sexual choices want to rely on MAP techniques to satisfy their desires. It should therefore be emphasized that thinking about the societal consequences of this extension does not make us ‑phobes of any variety. Homosexuals and trans people must have the right to live their difference without rejection or harassment. The question asked is  » Is it appropriate to apply technologies with unknown societal consequences to them?  » In the environmental field, this is called the precautionary principle. The problematic consequences of the generalization of procreatic techniques are at least four: temptation of eugenics, destabilization of essential societal reference points, evolution towards the dehumanization of humanity and the end of sex.

ARTIFICIAL INSEMINATION

Artificial insemination involves placing sperm into a uterus without having sexual intercourse. Artificial insemination was already practiced by the Arabs in the 14th century on mares. In 1870, an Italian priest, L. Spallanzani explained scientifically the fertilization of eggs by sperm. The technique was perfected in the 20th century by veterinarians and was in common use from the 1940s onwards. Used for the improvement of bovine breeds, its field of application was extended to other species, including the human species in order to remedy certain cases of infertility.

Today, artificial insemination with sperm donation (AID) is legally permitted in most countries for couples whose man is infertile. Sperm banks with anonymous donors have been developed. In some countries it is only allowed for couples of different genders. However, since the technique is very simple, it can be carried out in an artisanal way and is then often used in the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) communities in countries where the legislation reserves MAP to heterosexual couples.

INEVITABLE EUGENICS

From the moment when children are no longer the fruit of carnal human love, the question of the choice of gametes used arises. Obviously, one is not going to inseminate a white woman whose husband is secretly sterile with the sperm of a black man, otherwise the artificial pot of roses will inevitably be discovered. Pre-implantation diagnosis (PGD) is therefore used: whether for eggs or spermatozoa, the techniques will make it possible to choose the color of the eyes and hair, but also the sex and, above all, the absence of defects in the child to be born (who would want a disabled child?). We will thus go towards a positive eugenics (the negative one of the Nazis and consorts eliminated the defectives). But when science will allow us to avoid the failures of natural reproduction, will we still allow some  » backward-looking  » people to take the risk of reproducing naturally and generating malfunctions that would be unproductive and costly to society? One can imagine the increasing stigmatization of  » errors of nature « , born outside the society of total control. How can we accept the risks of random procreation when technology guarantees the quality of the product?

Yesterday, eugenics was the work of totalitarian states. Tomorrow, with the PMA without brakes, it will be the market, via the parents-consumers, who will determine what will be the « good » acceptable children (beautiful, intelligent and in good health, obviously…). We know that in Europe parents choose to order girls and in the South, boys… And without strict rules, let’s not imagine that consumers will take responsibility. Following the sacrosanct neo-liberal freedom of (oriented) choice, the president of the French National Ethics Committee warns:  » The technology is there, and as soon as there is an offer, there will be consumers . »

LOSS OF REFERENCE POINTS

Each society has patiently elaborated throughout the centuries the reference points that allow the famous « living together ». An invariant is naturally the relationship between men and women in which their mode of reproduction is central. Even if our societies are in the process of revising gender stereotypes, believing that we could emerge unscathed from a brutal shift in male and female roles is illusory. The sometimes virulent attacks to which our journal was subjected following the publication of the article « Sexual differentiation as a foundation » in the special issue Illimitations, shows that some people don’t want to go beyond the norms coming from a patriarchal past but want to impose, willingly or by force, new norms based on the negation of everything that is made of nature(2). Perverse logic of those who only dream of the artificialization of the world…

IN VITROFERTILIZATION

In vitro fertilization (IVF) is a MAP that consists of fertilizing an egg with a spermatozoon outside the woman’s body(in vitro and not in vivo) and then re-implanting the embryo formed in the mother’s womb. The technique was developed in the United Kingdom and the first « test tube baby », Louise Brown, was born in 1978.

Taking eggs from the female uterus, putting them in contact with spermatozoa and re-implanting the embryo that may have been produced is a delicate operation that, accompanied by heavy hormonal treatments even today, rarely succeeds on the first attempt. To increase the chances of success, several embryos are re-implanted, which means that 18% of IVF births result in twins (compared to 2% of all births). After 6 cycles, 50 to 70% of parents succeed in obtaining offspring. In rich countries, about 2% of babies are born through IVF and in 2012, around the world, already 4 million children were born through this technique. The origin of the eggs, the sperm and the body in which the embryo is replanted being multiple, different combinations are imaginable. As fertilized embryos can be frozen and brought back to life in their early stages, delayed births are possible.

THE (IN)VISIBLE HAND OF TRANSHUMANISM

The naïve think that « everyone » can be granted the right to access increasingly delusional reproductive technologies and believe that they are defending persecuted minorities. They do not realize that behind these generous motivations lies the transhumanist project of a literally « dehumanized » society. We must listen to the statements, read the books of those who intellectually defend the unlimited development of procreation. The reading of L’Homme artefact by Fabien Ollier(3) where these professions of faith are compiled, leaves a deep impression of uneasiness. The will to overcome what has always been the mode of reproduction of humanity is only a first step towards the replacement of current humans by half-organic, half-machine beings (cyborg). The pretext is the need for artificialization to stand up to the advent of robots with artificial intelligence, another fantasy of technology worshippers.

Since all transhumanism is based on the contempt, even the hatred of our real bodies, the  » overcoming of animality  » that is sexual reproduction is an essential step. Let’s listen to an « Australian transhumanist artist: » It is no longer a question of perpetuating the human species through reproduction, but of elevating sexual relations through the human-machine interface. The body is obsolete.  »

THE END OF SEXUALITY

The will to satisfy immediately (and at the expense of the community)3 the (sometimes surprising) desires of very active minorities (not caring about the collateral political and anthropological damage) is the motivation put forward by the supporters of PMA for all(4). But behind this screen there are other motives. The director of Stanford’s Center for Law and the Biosciences is less hypocritical:  » Non-sexual reproduction would become the norm within 20 to 40 years, with each person choosing his or her offspring from among 100 or 200 embryos made from his or her own artificial gametes and tested to avoid disease, risk of disease and risk of risk. There are big markets, enough to push the development [de la technologie] « (5). It’s true, letting people copulate and generate while escaping the market and the huge potential profits that this sector represents, is no longer acceptable in a hyper-liberal regime…

Sometimes, shock feminists rejoice: in the future, couples of women will be able to reproduce and transmit their DNA by pairing the oocytes of one with the genes from the stem cells of the other. They will only be able to make girls (but is that a problem or an advantage?). The biologist Henri Atlan baits them by praising ectogenesis: « Very soon, extracorporeal gestation will become the norm. The practices of « surrogate mothers » and of PMA outside the family structures recognized by society have already broken the immemorial link between a baby and the woman who carried it. [The artificial uterus will complete the social liberation of women by making them equal to men in the face of the physiological constraints inherent in procreation. « (6) Baby-making machines, raised in factories, programmed for their future rank in society…, doesn’t that remind you of(7)?

THE QUEST FOR « DISTINCTION

Not so long ago, when homosexuals were still struggling to be accepted in our societies with fixed norms, they intended to mark their difference from the dominant model, father-mother-children. This was their choice and the law has now endorsed it. But since political correctness has been mostly reversed, we are sometimes surprised to see that gay or lesbian couples want to go back to a model they seemed to want to overcome and want to copy the old families. This leads to a confusion of genres (it is the case to say it) which, as we have seen, unfortunately opens the door to dangerous societal drifts. Isn’t it too much to ask to have your cake and eat it too, and to have legislators smile at you?

Moreover, it is difficult not to wonder about the multiplication, these days, of the twisted sexualities(queer), of the identity-sexual hesitations which seem to seize so many of our contemporaries. Could this be a new symptom of the quest for difference (the distinction(8)) which is a marker of our pseudo-free societies? Since it is difficult to distinguish oneself by one’s conspicuous consumption (moreover, it is frowned upon by the ecologists…), one differentiates oneself in other ways (sometimes not even indifferentiation: will to reject the natural sexual difference and to force the children to register in a unisex or unigenre model).

SURROGATE MOTHERHOOD

Surrogate motherhood (GPA) is a technique in which a woman, called a surrogate mother, has a foreign embryo (produced in vitro) implanted in her uterus, pursues a pregnancy and gives birth to a child who is delivered at birth to the sponsor(s) who paid for this « service. This practice can respond to female infertility or to the desire of single men or homosexual couples to have a child.

It is time to reflect on the collective consequences of having to satisfy the wildest desires of tiny minorities. Certain excesses are beginning to provoke reactions of rejection: masculinism has just been born and reactionaries are on the rise, relying on the understandable discomfort of the majority, stupidly cisgendered and hetero-binary, who don’t understand the semantic subtleties of distinction researchers.

We calm down, we weigh the pros and cons, we evolve at a pace that can be sustained by all and that will not necessarily be sad. And also ( pro domo plea), let’s stop making the white, heterosexual, cisgendered, binary, slightly old man… the evil incarnation of the ultimate evil.

Alain Adriaens

Notes et références
  1. Les cas de stérilités sont de plus en plus nombreux, aussi bien du côté masculin que du coté féminin. Nous n’en parlerons pas ici mais l’on a déjà abordé dans Kairos les graves menaces que font peser sur la possibilité d’avoir des enfants, la présence dans notre environnement de toujours plus de substances chimiques (pesticides, perturbateurs endocriniens…) et de facteurs physiques (radioactivité, ondes électromagnétiques…).
  2. Cet aspect hélas conflictuel de la question sera abordé ailleurs dans ces pages. Voir page 12 de ce dossier.
  3. Fabien Ollier, L’Homme artefact : Indistinction des sexes et fabrique des enfants, QS? éditions, collection Horizon critique.
  4. Est-il acceptable d’exiger le remboursement par la sécurité sociale des coûteuses techniques procréatiques pour des individus non malades alors qu’on rogne sur le remboursement des lunettes et autres prothèses indispensables et que des médecins doivent choisir, faute de moyens, les aînés que l’on soignera et ceux qu’on laissera mourir ?
  5. Henry Greely, The End of Sex and the Future of Human Reproduction, Harvard University Press, 2016.
  6. H. Atlan, L’utérus artificiel, Seuil, 2005.
  7. Aldous Huxley, Le Meilleur des mondes (Brave New World), Poche Pocket, [1931] 2002.
  8. Pierre Bourdieu, La Distinction : Critique sociale du jugement, Les Éditions de Minuit, 1979.
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