Thursday, June 22, 2006

The baby debate

So I was perusing this article about the genetics of mental illness and the story ends with a discussion of whether or not those with a history of mental illness in their families should have children or not. While some people do choose not to procreate because of a mental or physical handicap, there's something very 1984 about people taking genetic tests to determine whether or not to have kids based on a statistical liklihood that their children may develop a serious mental illness.

There's definately an Orwellian tone to discussions about procreation these days. Only the "best" and brightest should reproduce because our planet is critically overpopulated as it is. That's how the story goes. And apparently, there is a contingent out there who believe that the mentally unstable are automatically discarded from this idealistic future.

I say, fuck you. Honestly. "Regular" people have to create drama to make their miserable little lives more exciting, but not me. My drama is built in and those who frown at my lazy streaks and envy my ups can kiss my ass when they start talking about breeding me out of the gene pool. Grrr.

I understand deciding to refrain from having kids if you have a terminal genetic condition. For example, one of the women in my graduate program had a terminal disease that caused the destruction of her liver. She had a transplant and she'll be able to live as long as that new liver keeps working but she doesn't want to take the risk that her kid would have to suffer like she did, laying in a hospital bed dying at 18 waiting for someone else to die so that she could live. She probably couldn't have kids anyway, given the nature of the steroids and other drugs she was taking.

But that's a choice and a personal one at that. It really pisses me off when other people start saying that a particular group shouldn't reproduce. Now, I think it's fair game to disapprove of those who have children without the means to provide for those kids or those who get preggers when they don't take care of the brats they have already. But disapproving and telling someone not to have kids are two very different things.

In a way, I think that people who contend that those with mental illnesses shouldn't reproduce are worshipping a false idol of normality. While I have no doubts that being bipolar is abnormal, I'm not sure that there's anything wrong with that unless the afflicted pose a danger to themselves or others. My moodiness isn't going to kill anyone. It might cause a few extra fights and my irritated phases might drive my husband nuts, but that's part of life I think. Some "normal" woman might be obsessed with maintaining a perfect weight. I occasionally sleep 14 hours a day. Where's the extreme difference between those behaviors that makes one acceptable and the other unforgiveable? I don't see it. And if anything, I think that diversity in the gene pool is desirable because after all, if everyone was like me, the world would be totally screwed. Cars, refridgeration, air conditioning...none of that would exist because I don't think like that. My mind doesn't wrap itself around that kind of thing.

Why bow to a god of genetic blandness? And if you follow this yellow brick road too far, who decides in the end what traits are the best and which have to go? What consitutes a weed in our collective genetic garden?

Because let me tell you, nothing pisses me off more than someone calling me a weed.