Letters to Unborn Daughters: Exploring the Implications of Genetic Engineering; Genetic Engineering Holds Many Mysteries. A Student Author Explores Its Implications by Means of Imaginary Conversations between Mothers and Their Unborn Daughters

By Stephen, Sarah | The Futurist, March-April 2004 | Go to article overview

Letters to Unborn Daughters: Exploring the Implications of Genetic Engineering; Genetic Engineering Holds Many Mysteries. A Student Author Explores Its Implications by Means of Imaginary Conversations between Mothers and Their Unborn Daughters


Stephen, Sarah, The Futurist


The following is a series of imagined letters written by mothers to their yet-to-be born daughters. They follow the debate of genetic enhancement while exploring the connection between a mother and a daughter.

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

September 2006

Dear Jane,

I'm sure you're a girl. Your father thinks so, too, though neither of us wants to know until you're born. We wanted to keep as much about your birth a surprise as possible. We had an ultrasound today, and everything appears normal. I'm glad that we decided to conceive you the natural way. There was some pressure from both our families to use genetic selection to ensure that you were perfect. Your father's family wanted their athleticism, and my family wanted our musical talent passed on to you. Though we want you to have the best possible life, we also want you to be able to choose what you do with it, and not feel pressured by our dreams for you. Both your father and I were born naturally, and have done just fine, thank you very much.

We did debate the issue, but couldn't draw a clear line between needs and wants. What's the difference between selecting your height or hair color and selecting whether you'll get this cancer-causing gene or that susceptibility to heart disease from one of us? Isn't that part of the wonder of reproduction? Of course, we don't want you to be susceptible to cancer, or other diseases, but both your father and I feel we value life more because of those we've lost to disease. We want you to grow up the same way, living each day to the fullest, not knowing when you will die or of what cause.

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

As a first-time mother, I've done everything I can think of to ensure that you'll be healthy. When your father and I decided that we wanted to have a child, I started eating only organic foods. Although most of my diet was organic before, I became much more vigilant. I have to say that I feel my health has improved as a result. I worry about the toxins that are present in so much of what we eat. I definitely didn't want to pass any of them to you. I guess your father and I are controlling some aspects of your yet-to-begin life. We're controlling environmental factors, though, not genetic ones.

Of course, your father and I realize that many of the students you will attend school with will have some genetic enhancement. We struggled with how fair it would be to you for us not to offer that to you, but again, we aren't convinced that it will make that big a difference. Neither your father nor I had genetic enhancement; we simply had tools given to us by our parents (an opportunity for education being the most important). And we've done quite well as a result. You too will have the opportunity to go to school, and we will provide you with any tools you need to succeed.

But we wanted you to be a product of us, not science. I hope we made the right decision.

Love, your mother.

September 2031

Dearest Molly,

As I write this, I can feel you kicking. I just reread the letter my mother wrote to me when she was pregnant with me, so I'm doing the same for you. My mom was right. Many of the students I went to school with had some form of genetic enhancement. For some, it was as simple as ensuring that they didn't need to wear glasses or braces. For others, it was to give them a particular talent or athletic ability. When I was growing up, I was frustrated that I wasn't naturally good at sports or the piano. I remember wishing my parents had selected for something to be "turned on" when I was created. They didn't so I had to work hard to be good at soccer. But I think I was a better player for it. I practiced harder on my technical skills than some of the other girls, but I still made the varsity team, so really, I wasn't too far behind. In the end, I'm glad that your grandparents decided not to provide me with any extras. …

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