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Wrongfully using IVF to cut out Autism and Other Disorders

IVF and Autism

The fear associated with having an Autistic child has hit a whole new level of hysteria as of the last ten years or so. As of the last few years, parents have been granted the right to select the sex of their babies using IVF techniques in an attempt to avoid having children with Autism.


Fertility clinics in several countries are allowing parents to select the sex of their babies now, which I am not against; but, get this- they are using this method of selection to route out potential Autism in their future children. Parent’s of already Autistic children are choosing to disregard male embryos prior to IVF due to the fear of Autism. Their main platform being that the prevalence rate of Autism among males is 1 in 68, and it is 1 in 189 among girls.

In case you do not know, “Autism is a term used to describe a group of complex developmental brain disorders - autism spectrum disorders - caused by a combination of genes and environmental influences. These disorders are characterized, in varying degrees, by communication difficulties, social and behavioral challenges, as well as repetitive behaviors.

Autism is a brain development disorder characterized by impaired social interaction and communication, and restricted and repetitive behavior, all starting before a child is three years old. This set of signs distinguishes autism from milder autism spectrum disorders (ASD) such as pervasive developmental disorder not otherwise specified (PDD-NOS).” Some family’s handle these difficulties associated with these disorders better than others.

This whole thought process of sex selection based on Autism agitates me on many levels. For one, amongst many other things- IVF has been linked as being one of the ‘potential causes’ of Autism. For a parent to pay up to 6000 euros to prevent something from happening that may not happen to begin with is sad to me; but, to pay for something that is listed among the potential causes and then choose an embryo based on risk is ignorant to me. If IVF is a ‘potential cause’ and having a boy raises the risk, then one could argue that having IVF raises the risk exponentially anyway. But I digress…

These babies have been lovingly nicknamed “designer babies.” Parent’s aren’t only disregarding the male embryos due to Autism, things such as Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy and Hemophilia are also concerns that are being addressed via IVF selection. Now the reasonability of this trend depends on who you ask. If you are asking the doctors performing the operations than it is completely acceptable and very reasonable option. Professor Joy Delhanty, of the University of London said, “It is a reasonable use of technology. It is reducing the risk of Autism [and other disorders] in these families. They were referred to us after undergoing genetic counseling because their family already has one Autistic child.” She added: 'The other option open to these people is to go ahead and get pregnant and if prenatal testing shows it is a boy, to have an abortion. I don't think anyone would think that was justified in terms of the risk of autism. This is better because it is testing embryos at a very, very early stage.'

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The embryos are screened on day three after they have been fertilised in the laboratory. Two cells are taken away and examined, using fluorescent dye to highlight sex chromosomes. Professor Delhanty then said: 'We can look under the microscope and tell which are going to be girls and which boys.' Only female embryos are retained and implanted into the mother.

So, based on their beliefs it is ok to terminate the use of a male embryo based on genetic counseling telling them that they MAY have another child with the same disorder. It also seems to be an option to them to abort any male fetuses that may implant. I scream to these parents that this is not the way to go.

My family’s Autism is genetic. My husband is High Functioning, my youngest is also high functioning, where my oldest is more severe. I couldn’t imagine my life without my youngest son, despite his Autism. All children are simply remarkable beings that all deserve a life, Autistic or not. The thought of “throwing away” my child because of a potential defect is sickening to me. Genetics do not indicate severity or even the presence of Autism. It can just be a marker, a chromosomal marker that doesn’t necessarily cause it.

In contrast to how the doctors feel, when you ask the National Autistic Society about this trend they have much different viewpoints. Per the National Autistic Society’s statement on this trend, “We are surprised as an organization that sex selection tests are being preformed and used as a basis to decide whether a baby may have Autism. Having a female doesn’t guarantee a child free of Autism.” To go further, Dr. David King, coordinator of the Human Genetics Alert said, “These kind of techniques should only be offered where the baby is going to suffer a genetic condition that will lead to a short, painful life. That does not apply to Autism, and this is the slippery slope towards eugenics.” I am in 100 percent agreement.

I wonder if people realize they are effectively killing off a group of people that could change the world? How many big shots have Autism? A lot of them, that’s for sure. Here’s a list of some famous people worldwide that wouldn’t necessarily be here to change the world had their parents chose genetic IVF selection.

Famous Autistic Individuals:
-Albert Einstein - Einstein had difficulty with social interactions, was very intelligent but had difficulty learning in school.
-Alexis Wineman - The first Miss America contestant with autism to compete in the Miss Montana pageant.
-Alonzo Clemons - American clay sculptor
-Amadeus Mozart - Famous musician.
-Bhumi Jensen - grandson of Bhumibol Adulyadej, King of Thailand
-Bill Gates
-Birger Sellin - German author
-Caiseal Mor - author, musician, and artist
-Christopher Knowles - American poet
-Daniel Tammet - British autistic savant
-Derek Paravicini - blind British musician
-Dylan Scott Pierce - wildlife illustrator
-Evgeny Kissin - Russian pianist
-Henriett Seth F. - Hungarian autistic savant, poet, writer and artist
-Hikari Oe - Japanese composer
-James Hobley - British dancer and 2011 Britain's Got Talent finalist
-Jessica-Jane Applegate - Paralympic swimmer
-Jonathan Jayne - contestant on American Idol
-Jonathan Lerman - American artist
-Leslie Lemke - blind American musician
-Luca Brecel - Belgian professional snooker player.
-Lucy Blackman - university educated author
-Marty Balin - singer and songwriter with Jefferson Airplane and Jefferson Starship
-Matt Savage - U.S. jazz prodigy
-Michelle Dawson - autism researcher and autism rights activist
-Peter Tork - Musician
-Richard Wawro - Scottish artist
-Stephen Wiltshire - British architectural artist
-Temple Grandin - Colorado State University calls her "the most accomplished and well-known adult with autism in the world."
-Tito Mukhopadhyay - author, poet, and philosopher
-Todd Hodgetts - Paralympic shot putter
-Tony DeBlois - blind American musician
-Vincent Philip D'Onofrio - American actor, director, film producer, writer, and singer.

That’s just to name a few. Autistic children walk into your life and leave you in a state of admiration and awe. While one of the hardest jobs on earth raising an Autistic individual is, it is also the most rewarding. Using sex selection to “prevent” yourself from having an Autistic child is beyond me. These kids become your heroes, your heart, your motivation; so, tell me who anyone would want to run from that?