Ladies Would You Want to Gestate a Neanderthal Baby?

Bioethics   |   Rebecca Taylor   |   Jan 28, 2013   |   2:24PM   |   Washington, DC

Last week the world was talking about Harvard’s George Church who suggested we use Neanderthal DNA to resurrect Neanderthals.

From the UK’s Daily Mail:

They’re usually thought of as a brutish, primitive species.

So what woman would want to give birth to a Neanderthal baby?

Yet this incredible scenario is the plan of one of the world’s leading geneticists, who is seeking a volunteer to help bring man’s long-extinct close relative back to life.

Professor George Church of Harvard Medical School believes he can reconstruct Neanderthal DNA and resurrect the species which became extinct 33,000 years ago.

His scheme is reminiscent of Jurassic Park but, while in the film dinosaurs were created in a laboratory, Professor Church’s ambitious plan requires a human volunteer.

He said his analysis of Neanderthal genetic code using samples from bones is complete enough to reconstruct their DNA.

He said: ‘Now I need an adventurous female human.

And while the world focused on the creation of a fictional Neanderthal, I was horrified by Church’s “need” for a very real “adventurous female human.”

Frankly, I am tired of scientists talking about women like they are raw materials for whatever crazy idea they can think up. Whether it is cloning humans or resurrecting Neanderthals, we women are discussed like we are simply egg producers and incubators.

This is not a small problem. In 2011, New Zealand’s science agency AgResearch halted its cloning operations in part because of complications that forced the gestating mothers to be euthanized. I am unnerved to think of the risks any human woman would be subjected to when carrying a genetically engineered Neanderthal.

So why do researchers see us women like we are just another part of the experiment? Because we let them. Many women have already put their health and fertility at risk donating precious eggs for embryo-destructive and cloning research. Why wouldn’t George Church think he could find an “adventurous” female to act as a Neanderthal incubator? In the comments section of the Daily Mail article, it seems one woman has already volunteered, giving her e-mail address.

I truly believe that if men were required to undergo the invasive procedures required to get the eggs that fuel fertility clinics and cloning labs, IVF, embryonic stem cell research, and cloning would not exist. Men would not subject themselves to multiple hormone shots and surgery to retrieve sperm.

Men certainly wouldn’t subject themselves to what Shavonne, who was asked to donate eggs to make embryos for embryonic stem cells research, had to go through. She told her story to The Center for Bioethics and Culture:

I took a drug called Follistim to super ovulate me. The retrieval went fine, but not too long after that my stomach started to swell, and every time I leaned over I could feel my ovaries “plop.” I went to see the doctor, and he told me I had OHSS…nurse stuck a needle in my stomach, and it was a loud pop I could feel, like a balloon was popped. She stuck a bag on the end of the needle to drain the fluid, and the bag filled with 2 quarts in about 5 minutes. She had to quickly put another bag on and some of the fluid spilled on the floor. She filled the next bag too—in all, 4 quarts were drained out of my stomach…. The staff at the hospital would shake their head at me and took pity on me, because I was an egg donor and they said they saw this a lot…. It took a year and a half to clear up the medical bills. My menstrual cycles are few and far between. I was pregnant in 2008, but I lost the baby. I hope to have children some day, and every time I do have a period, I get really excited because I rarely have them anymore.



I wonder why we women allow this kind of exploitation of our bodies. Until we start standing up as a gender and stop allowing the scientific world to see us as raw materials, the George Churchs of the world will continue to think up the unthinkable. And they will continue to expect us to put our lives and health at risk to make their insane dreams a reality.