A World of His Own

  We expect every parent to put good health at the top of their hopes for their unborn child. Why wouldn't they? Doesn't every parent want to give their children the best chance at success in life? According to an article in the March 31 issue of the Washington Post Magazine, the answer is "not necessarily," especially if it gets in the way of what's most important to the parents. The article tells the story of newborn Gauvin Hughes McCullough and his two mothers: Sharon Duchesneau, his birth mother, and Candace McCullough, his adoptive mother. Yes, Duchesneau and McCullough are lesbians, but that's the least remarkable part of Gauvin's story. Duchesneau and McCullough are also deaf. They met at Gallaudet University, a university for the deaf in Washington, D.C. From the moment they decided to have a child, they set out to maximize the chances that the child would be deaf like them. To that end, they asked sperm banks if they had any deaf donors. The sperm banks told them that deafness was the sort of condition they screened out in potential donors. Disappointed, they turned to a deaf male friend from Gallaudet. Even so, that wouldn't guarantee that Gauvin would be deaf like his "mothers." They had to wait several months after Gauvin was born for an audiologist to confirm success: The baby was deaf. So the women could have what they called a "special blessing," a deaf child. Why would parents, especially ones who have experienced the challenges posed by a disability like deafness, wish this condition on their children? After all, kids already face plenty of challenges and obstacles growing up, particularly in a lesbian household. The answer lies in the way many deaf people in this age of multiculturalism see themselves. Increasingly, they see Deafness, with a capital "D," not as a disability, but a culture. They regard treatments, like cochlear implants, which enable deaf children to hear, as a kind of cultural genocide, but this brand of identity politics perfectly reflects the postmodern obsession with identity politics. We don't belong to one culture, say all humans in America. We belong to the culture we build out of our own grievance groups, and society, as a whole, is fractured into many cultures defined by sexual orientation, gender, disability, and the like. The really dangerous issue illustrated by this story is one that goes beyond the fate of one child. While Duchesneau and McCullough were unusual in that they wanted a child with a birth defect, they are hardly alone in practicing what can only be called "eugenics." Their search for a donor who would maximize the chances for their desired outcome of the child is no different from what increasing numbers of Americans are regularly doing. And, thanks to advances in genetics, soon parents won't have to live with the uncertainty of "success" this couple did. Not only will they be able to prevent disabilities and illnesses, they will be able to enhance physical and mental attributes and choose things like hair color and size. Children will become, as one commentator put it, the ultimate shopping experience -- designer babies. Thus, we will have gone from seeing children as charges whose well-being we are supposed to put above our own to the means by which we achieve self-fulfillment and what we think is best for us.   For further reading and information: Charles Colson, "Can We Prevent the Abolition of Man," an address to U.S. Congress members and staff. Gilbert Meilaender, Bioethics: A Primer for Christians (Eerdmans 1996). BreakPoint commentary, "Missing the Point: Defect- Free Babies," 7 March 2002.
  1. Ben Mitchell, Ph. D., "Hurtling Toward Eugenics . . . Again," 27 February 2002.
Liza Mundy, "A World of Their Own," Washington Post Magazine, 31 March 2002, W22.


Chuck Colson


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