Poll: Many Americans Support Killing Unborn Babies if They Show Signs of Low Intelligence

Bioethics   |   Micaiah Bilger   |   Feb 15, 2023   |   7:22PM   |   Washington, DC

Disturbing new research indicates more than one third of Americans are okay with selecting and destroying their children as embryos based on DNA tests that predict their likelihood of being smart enough to attend a top-tier college.

A new opinion poll published in the journal Science asked Americans about testing embryos for in vitro fertilization (IVF), an infertility treatment that involves creating embryos outside the womb before implanting them in the mother’s uterus. Often, embryos are destroyed in the process, even though they already are unique human beings at the earliest stage of life.

According to MIT Technology Review, the poll found about 40 percent of Americans likely would test their embryos for signs of intelligence and choose those who exhibit higher capabilities, should such a test exist.

The researchers also asked people if they would choose to genetically modify their children’s DNA at the embryo stage if the technology was safe, and 28 percent said they would, according to the report.

As of yet, it does not appear that anyone is publicly offering DNA tests that predict intelligence, but scientists and ethicists believe they could be coming in the near future. Currently, tests are available for genetic abnormalities that causes diseases and disorders.

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Here’s more from the report:

As far as MIT Technology Review could determine, no child has yet been picked from a petri dish on the basis of its educational potential score. But that moment may not be far off. Early users of Genomic Prediction’s health scores who’ve spoken about their experience come from segments of society with strong preoccupations with cognitive performance.

One couple who were customers of Genomic Prediction, Simone Collins and her husband Malcolm, say they are building a large family using IVF and genomic health prediction tests. While they were not able to access educational prowess scores for their last child, Collins says next time could be different.

In an email, Collins said she has “identified companies” that “will provide this information.” She added, “We’ll absolutely be factoring it in with future embryo selection.”

The results have ethicists and scientists concerned about future implications, and many are urging countries to pass regulations regarding the practice.

Michelle N. Meyer, a co-author of the report and bioethics professor with Geisinger Health System, expressed serious concerns about their findings.

“I certainly don’t think this is something good,” Meyer told MIT. “The bigger risk is saying nothing and letting this unfold against a laissez-faire regulatory and market system.”

She and co-authors Patrick Turley and Daniel J. Benjamin warned that such tests, if or when they do exist, could “exacerbate existing inequalities” in society, according to the report. In other words, rich people who can afford IVF could select their children based on tests about their intelligence and potentially even their height, weight, hair and eye color.

“For the foreseeable future and maybe forever, this technology is going to be available only to people who are already wealthy or are privileged in other ways,” Meyer said. “To the extent that this does have an impact, and gives any offspring a boost, [this] is not something that is going to be equally accessible to everybody.”

For pro-life advocates, another huge concern is that more human lives – children – will be destroyed simply because they have traits that their parents deem “undesirable.”