Academic journal article The Hastings Center Report

Paternal-Fetal Conflict

Academic journal article The Hastings Center Report

Paternal-Fetal Conflict

Article excerpt

The attempt to reduce birth defects has proceeded by various strategies; among them, large notices in bars instructing pregnant women of the risk to fetuses posed by alcohol, corporate policies (now unconstitutional) banning fertile women from jobs considered hazardous to fetal health, and in Florida, for example, incarceration of pregnant women for delivering drugs to a minor via the umbilical cord.

The March of Dimes is taking a different approach. Under the slogan, "Men have babies, too," it has launched a campaign to increase public awareness of fathers' contribution to their future children's health (NY Times, 25 December 1991). There is recent evidence that a man's exposure to toxins not only reduces sperm count (which has long been known) but also damages sperm, causing abnormal fetal development and thereby increasing the woman's risk of miscarriage and still-birth.

Further, even if the baby is brought to term, damaged sperm results in offspring with various neurological or physical disabilities; for example, male rats exposed to lead for two months before mating produced babies who had trouble learning how to swim. The March of Dimes is funding at least eight new studies to seek further data on what damages sperm and how such sperm in turn damages the resultant child.

In a spirit of helpfulness, we herewith offer a list of known substances men should avoid for at least three months before intentionally or accidentally impregnanting a woman:

* Lead, industrial solvents, certain pesticides, marijuana smoke, arsenic, and vinyl chloride, all of which produce miscarriages. …

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