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Kids Without Sex



Kids Without Sex
The man who pioneered the social phenomenon of women having sex without babies; is now postulating that, in tie not too distant future, women will be able to have kids without sex.Recently, CNN showed a clip about a 60 year old woman who gave birth to twins. This event was rare enough to be featured on prime time. However, if Carl Djerassi is to be believed, by 2050, women in their sixties having babies will be commonplace.

Who is Carl Djerassi? He is one of the world’s most eminent scientists, but he is best known as the man who invented the contraceptive pill. With impeccable credentials like these, one has to presume that he is not talking out of his hat. Besides, there is a delicious irony involved here. The man who pioneered the social phenomenon of women having sex without babies; is now postulating that, in tie not too distant future, women will be able to have kids without sex.

Kids without sex? Let me clarify that. Djerassi has not invented some wonder drug that keeps women fertile well into their sixties – and also does away with men. His contention is that, within the next 30 to 50 years, many women in the Western world would – while they are at the peak of their fertility – be able to bank their eggs or ovarian tissues, have them frozen; and use them whenever they feel it’s the right them for them to have children. At that time, the eggs would be transported to the lab; and embryos would be produced by using the sperm from a husband or partner. A handful of babies have already been born using frozen eggs.

A few years ago, such a scenario would have seemed wildly implausible. But now, with increasingly refined egg freezing techniques, the chances of success have increased dramatically. A new process, called vitrification, in which water is removed and snit-freeze chemicals added, is increasing the success rate to the same as for babies born from In Vitro Fertilization.

So why would a woman choose to have a baby so late in life? Part of it would have to do with changing societal patterns. In the past, most women – once they started having children – stayed at home and devoted most of their time and effort in bringing them up. With Djerassi’s pill, women now have the option to choose when to have a baby, but they are still constrained by their fertility clock. Much as they would prefer to spend their twenties and thirties consolidating their careers, they dare not wait too long. And, as many mothers have discovered, balancing a career and kids can be a daunting task. Day care is an option, of course but, besides being pretty expensive, is open only to a few. As women become better educated and more "equal", many are very reluctant to sacrifice their promising careers for raising a family. Plus, most women live well into their eighties nowadays, so they don’t perceive the need for rushing to start a family. The main constraint has been their biological clock. By banking her eggs, they would be free to have babies when they are good and ready.

This does raise some ethical issues, though. Would a generation of middle-aged, first-time mothers somehow go against a long established law of nature? And what about the social impact? How would a fifth-grader feel at a school picnic, when he compares his sexagenarian parents with the ‘normal’ younger ones? And can one imagine a seventy-plus dad shooting hoops with his 12 year old son?

I don’t know. Logically, this does not seem to be any problem – and it does make sense in its own fashion. But I’m always apprehensive when mortals try to tamper with the laws of nature.