Betcha thought Chrissy Teigen was the cutest little pregnant lady, didn’t you?
I did. I love seeing pregnant women who look cute and glowy and still manage to glam it up while with child, even though they no doubt feel like distant cousins of the Great Blue Whale.
When Teigen and husband John Legend announced that they were pregnant, they opened up for the first time about their struggles with infertility. On her talk show with Tyra Banks, she said, “We would have had kids five, six years ago if it had happened.” She revealed that they had used assisted reproduction to get pregnant.
But they went further and used IVF to do something that is illegal in most countries where it is available: They used IVF to choose their baby’s sex.
When it comes to IVF-enabled sex selection, the United States is an outlier. Even very socially liberal countries like Canada don’t allow it for purely social reasons. A couple dozen developed countries allow it for “medical” justifications, such as avoiding passing on a sex-linked genetic disorder. Even the United Nations and the World Health Organization are opposed to sex-selective IVF. The World Health Organization, which is not exactly stacked with social conservatives, argues that using IVF to determine the sex of a child, “raises serious moral, legal, and social issues” and can lead to “the distortion of the natural sex ratio leading to a gender imbalance” and can “reinforce discriminatory and sexist stereotypes towards women by devaluing females.”
The United States is one of a handful of remaining countries that has not banned the practice, resulting in what some have called “reproductive tourism,” attracting couples from around the world that want to choose their baby’s sex for purely social reasons.
Feeling icky yet?
IVF has raised all sorts of debates in the bioethics community, but perhaps none more salient than whether it can be used for eugenic purposes, such as destroying embryos solely because they did not fit the social profile the parents were seeking, whether it’s eye color, race, or . . . sex.
In one famous case that embodies these moral stakes, a lesbian couple sued a sperm bank after it provided them with sperm from a black man, as opposed to the white man they had requested, and one of the women gave birth to a biracial daughter. In another, a surrogate mom carrying a child conceived through IVF was offered a bribe to abort the child she was carrying because the ultrasound revealed the baby had a cleft palate.
This is eugenics. And while most Americans are probably more than freaked out by stories such as these, many are probably less horrified by Chrissy Teigen’s choice to pick through her embryos for a girl. But her flip and joking attitude should terrify us. As she put it to People magazine, “Not only am I having a girl, but I picked the girl from her little embryo. I picked her and was like, ‘Let’s put in the girl.’”
She goes on to make gushy remarks about how she can’t wait to see her husband bond with a girl. John “deserves that bond,” she says. The irony here is that the very process by which Teigen used to choose a girl is used all over the world to abort them.
Having children is not a trip to the American Girl doll store, where you can tailor-make a doll’s every last trait. Childbearing is not Chipotle, where you pick and chose fundamental physical and genetic traits of a human being. It’s not a chance to experiment with eugenics just because the technology is available.
In making light of her choice to use IVF for sex-selection, Chrissy Teigen helps to mainstream consumer eugenics. Her growing little baby is valuable indeed, but Chrissy’s choice helps to shape a world where women are a little less valuable and eugenics a little more glamorous.
Ashley McGuire is co-founder of altFem Magazine.