Why We Should All Be Talking About the Fact That Chrissy Teigen Chose a Female Embryo

Chrissy Teigen

Chrissy Teigen is making headlines -- yet again -- for something related to her current pregnancy. This time, Teigen's being accused of "designing" her own baby, something that is not an outright problem, but can quickly bring up a host of ethical dilemmas when it comes to reproduction.

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The model, who has previously been lambasted for her food choices during pregnancy, is being taken to task over an aspect of her IVF process. Teigen and her husband, musician John Legend, struggled with infertility -- something Teigen has always been very open about -- and they eventually turned to IVF to help conceive a child. Like many others who have used IVF, they produced a handful of viable embryos. Doctors will usually implant the strongest and healthiest embryos in hopes that the best will "stick." But, this time around, Teigen and Legend were also able to select the sex of the embryos that were implanted -- and they chose female ones.

Now, with Teigen pregnant with a baby girl, people are questioning whether or not it's okay to select the sex of your baby. When it comes to all things reproductive, I'm of the mind that as long as an informed decision is being made, the parents have the right to choose. So, in that sense: Yes, Chrissy, you do you and choose a girl. You really want a daughter and you think John will be the best dad ever to one ... so go for it. But, making what might seem like a small decision does have larger ramifications that deserve a further look.

First, it should be noted that just because Teigen and Legend chose a female embryo, it's no guarantee that they will end up raising a girl. (Is it time to have the "sex doesn't always equal gender" discussion again?) But let's say that their little one does indeed identify as a girl and the Teigen-Legend family grows up all happy in their choices. So, what's the big deal?

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The big deal is that so-called "designer" embryos are a dangerous slippery slope that smacks of eugenics. Eugenics -- essentially the concept that in order to strengthen human genetics, you need to eliminate the "bad" or "weak" from the herd -- has its roots in racist and classist beginnings. After all, who gets to determine what is good and what is bad? And while selecting the sex of your baby might not seem like such a big deal, tell that to China, which, until recently, stringently pushed a one-child policy, resulting in millions of potential girls losing their lives (or potential lives) in favor of male babies.

Designer embryos don't necessarily have to stop at gender, either. What happens when an embryo comes back with markers for various genetic syndromes that may not be life-threatening, but could perhaps be life-altering? Most people, when conceiving, don't have the opportunity (or some might say "luxury") to pick and choose the various traits their children can be born with. If we got to the point where we were able to truly genetically design our embryos, what would the world look like in a generation or three? Would it be all one race (which one?!), only blue-eyed and blonde children? Only people without mobility or sensory issues?

While we may not be all the way there with the technology, we are getting to the point where designer embryos are more fact than science fiction. So when a popular celebrity talks about choosing her baby's gender, it normalizes the idea that it's okay to pick out aspects of your baby's genetics. Again, it's Teigen's right and it's not against the law. As she notes, many couples who use IVF do have the opportunity to choose the sex of the implanted embryo. But does that make it okay? I'm not so sure.

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I'll be honest, I don't think there's a definite yes or no answer to this, but rather a swath of grey that bears looking at. After all, imagine if all families in China had the ability to select the sex of their babies before implantation. Would that lead to a society devoid of women, eventually?

I appreciate the conversations surrounding pregnancy and society that Teigen has repeatedly broached via social media. I even appreciate the chance to discuss this current issue. Because I'm curious, where's the line for Teigen? If she could choose an embryo that has John's eyes and her nose, would she do it? What if she could choose the lightness or darkness of her baby's skin? Where is her ethical line in the sand when it comes to "designer embryos" -- who will no doubt grow up to be designer babies?

 

 

Image via @Parisa/Splash News

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