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Sebastian's Point

Sebastian's Point is a weekly column written by one of our members regarding timely events or analysis of relevant ideas, which impact the Culture of Life. All regular members are invited to submit a column for publication at Columns should be between 800 to 1300 words and comply with the high standards expected in academic writing, including proper citations of authority or assertions referred to in your column. Please see, Submission Requirements for more details.

IVF & Eugenics

Katie Breckenridge, M.S.

Operations Administrator

Them Before Us   |  16 April  2024


The Alabama Supreme Court’s recent and right decision[1] to deem embryos created through In Vitro Fertilization as persons has sparked concern from fertility clinics regarding the future of IVF treatments. As stated in Nature Magazine, “Physicians are especially worried that officials might cap the number of embryos that can be created in each treatment cycle, which often entails the fertilization of several eggs. Lawmakers could also ban the freezing of backup embryos, which doctors say would result in less efficient and more expensive treatments.”[2] Further, there are concerns about further limitations on embryonic research. What these concerns have in common is that this ruling forces society to rise above past eugenic practices that we are, apparently, not ready to abandon. If Alabama further enforces restrictions on IVF, embryos will no longer be non-person, commodifiable objects, which society can do with as it pleases, as was prevalent in Greek and Roman cultures long before the term “eugenics” was invented and widely practiced across the globe.[3]



The IVF process often involves the preimplantation screening of blastocysts[4] (early embryos) to determine the likelihood of implantation success and test for genetic defects. Those considered “non-viable” are discarded. This eugenic practice opens the door to the elimination of “defective” children, as those utilizing preimplantation screenings with the hope of producing only perfectly healthy children may be more inclined to choose selective reduction as well. Selective reduction (abortion) commences with the injection of potassium chloride[5] into the heart of the unlucky fetus, which stops the small heart from beating. In instances where babies share the same amniotic sac, more inhumane techniques are used such as bipolar cord coagulation and radiofrequency ablation,[6] which cut off the umbilical cord supply, thus starving the baby of oxygen and nutrients. In ancient Rome, this dehumanization of children can be described by a quote from the philosopher Seneca in the first century CE: “...unnatural progeny we destroy; we drown even children who at birth are weakly and abnormal.”[7] Similarly, in ancient Greece,[8] abortion to limit the number of children in families was encouraged, as well as infanticide for babies born with deformities, as “exposure” of infants was a common practice in Greek cities.



In ancient Greece, as part of their societal values, there was an emphasis on marriages that would strengthen the genetic excellence of the population, and therefore partners were selected based on traits such as physical fitness.[9] The government would even intervene and arrange marriages or force divorces if the couples were judged unfit for each other and thereby incapable of producing strong offspring.



How does the IVF process encourage this type of “selective breeding”? Well, besides selective reduction, reproductive technologies such as IVF often include gamete donation. With gamete donation, people can choose from a catalog of donors and pick certain physical and intellectual characteristics.[10] Gamete donors must meet certain requirements, such as certain physical and intellectual characteristics, a certain ethnicity, a certain height, “good genes,” physical attractiveness, and good health, to weed out any “undesirable” traits. The IVF process often involves the eugenic practice of creating designer babies based on intelligence, hair color, eye color, etc., through gamete donation. Dave Rubin compared the process of picking an egg donor to sort of being “like Tinder,” and went through the site searching for a donor who was physically healthy, didn’t have major genetic issues, and that, “sort of looked like the type of girl they might be with,” showing the build-a-child manufacturing mindset involved in the gamete donor process that diminishes children to mere products.[11]



Further, since unique human beings come into existence upon fertilization, the gender of the persons being fashioned through IVF can also be determined before implantation. This allows persons pursuing the IVF process to choose the gender they want to be transferred and, therefore, choose which of their children gets to be transferred based on their gender. What could better demonstrate that you consider all of your children potentially disposable than saying that one of them isn't the "right" sex?



When IVF clinics can no longer create multiple embryonic persons with which to experiment and play trial and error through the transfer process,[12] can no longer indefinitely freeze as human icicles, or donate to scientific research where they will be destroyed, they are forced to face the reality that embryos are persons. These persons should not be destroyed for being “weakly and abnormal” (possessing disabilities, not living up to “designer” standards, or simply being the “wrong sex”) or for being “leftovers” after a couple has reached their desired amount of children. If Alabama does indeed propose further restrictions to IVF treatments, then they are to be commended, as it would be one step closer to eliminating new eugenics practices. 



[1] Ertelt, Steven. 2024. “Alabama Supreme Court Rules Frozen Embryos are Unborn Children -” LifeNews.Com. February 23, 2024.

[2] Lenharo, Mariana. 2024. “Is IVF at risk in the US? Scientists fear for the fertility treatment’s future.” Nature (London), April.

[3] Eugenics. (2019, October 28). “Eugenics: Definition, Movement & Meaning.” HISTORY.

[4] Women & Infants. (n.d.). “A Guide to Preimplantation Genetic Testing (PGT).” Care New England Health System.

[5] Beriwal, Sridevi, Lawrence Impey, and Christos Ioannou. 2020. “Multifetal pregnancy reduction and selective termination.” Obstetrician & Gynaecologist/the Obstetrician & Gynaecologist 22 (4): 284–92.

[6] Dadhwal, Vatsla, Aparna Sharma, Dipika Deka, Latika Chawla, and Nutan Agarwal. 2019. “Selective fetal reduction in monochorionic twins: Preliminary experience.” Journal of the Turkish-German Gynecological Association 20 (2): 79–83.

[7] “Seneca:  On Anger (excerpts).” n.d.

[8] Galton, D J. 1998. “Greek Theories on Eugenics.” Journal of Medical Ethics 24 (4): 263–67.

[9]  Barr, James. “Exploring Marriage Customs in Ancient Greek Sparta: Military Influence and Eugenics - WeChronicle.” 2023. June 19, 2023.

[10] Seattle Sperm Bank. “DONOR CATALOG.” n.d. Accessed April 8, 2024.

[11] Breckenridge, Katie. (2023). ‘Weird Gestations.” Salvo Magazine.

[12] Breckenridge, Katie. 2022. “IVF Harms to Children.” Them Before Us. July 15, 2022.

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