18 November 2014
ByAppeared in BioNews 780
In an interview with the Telegraph, Professor Carl Djerassi, a chemist who developed the contraceptive pill, spoke about a future where fertile couples would choose to reproduce via IVF, and there would effectively be no unwanted pregnancies and abortions.
'The vast majority of women who will choose IVF in the future will be fertile women who have frozen their eggs and delayed pregnancy,' said Professor Djerassi, who is emeritus professor of chemistry at Stanford University. 'Over the next few decades, say by the year 2050, more IVF fertilisations will occur among fertile women than the current five million fertility-impaired ones. For them the separation between sex and reproduction will be 100 per cent.'
Professor Djerassi hinted that IVF would be used as an 'insurance' policy against infertility later in life, or to prevent having children with genetic conditions.
'Women in their twenties will first choose this approach as insurance, providing them with freedom in the light of professional decisions or the absence of the right partner or the inexorable ticking of the biological clock.' he said. 'However I predict that many of these women will in fact decide to be fertilised by IVF methods because of the advances in genetic screening. And once that happens then IVF will start to become a normal non-coital method of having children.'
Professor Djerassi's comments have drawn heavy criticism. The Guardian points out that he has not considered whether current technology – for example, fertilising eggs that have been cryopreserved – would allow his vision to be realised. 'If as Djerassi says putting all our eggs in one cryo-basket will be the way of the future, there are hurdles that need to be carefully navigated to ensure that they will still be intact enough once thawed,' wrote columnist Aarathi Prasad.
The Telegraph's Bryony Gordon dismissed the comments as 'idiocy', saying: 'These comments are at best misleading, at worst insulting to all the couples who have to go through IVF for medical reasons rather than it being a lifestyle choice.'
'Plus, they help to perpetuate a myth that leaves many thousands of people in despair every year – the myth that fertility can in some way be controlled, switched on and off or stored up for future use like a SkyPlus Box.'