In vitro fertilization has caused a few problems, but it has brought new hope to couples who were formerly unable to conceive. One controversial side effect is that embryos with genetic diseases can be culled. This brings up a brand new moral choice for our time.

Pregnant women used to find out if they were going to have a child with a genetic disease, such as cystic fibrosis, by having amniocentesis, in which some of the placental fluid was drawn off and tested. Early amniocentesis can be performed as early as 13 weeks gestation, but it is usually performed between 15 and 20 weeks gestation. The problem with this was that it led to the tough moral choice of whether to have a third-trimester abortion. If a couple knows that these genes run in their families, they can eliminate embryos that contain these genes, in order to make sure they have a healthy child. This is not only a selfish decision from the parents’ point of view?the parents of genetically-compromised children are often devastated by the physical suffering, and early death, that they see their children going through.

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