Older Parents, Weaker Children, Future America

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An important piece by Judith Shulevitz, focusing on the unforeseen effects of having children at a later age:

…The Nature study ended by saying that the greater number of older dads could help to explain the 78 percent rise in autism cases over the past decade. Researchers have suspected links between autism and parental age for years. One much-cited study from 2006 argued that the risk of bearing an autistic child jumps from six in 10,000 before a man reaches 30 to 32 in 10,000 when he’s 40—a more than fivefold increase. When he reaches 50, it goes up to 52 in 10,000. It should be noted that there are many skeptics when it comes to explaining the increase of autism; one school of thought holds that it’s the result of more doctors making diagnoses, better equipment and information for the doctors to make them with, and a vocal parent lobby that encourages them. But it increasingly looks as if autism cases have risen more than overdiagnosis can account for and that parental age, particularly paternal age, has something to do with that fact. …”

Read it all. The writer dares to look at some of the fallout from IVF and “outside the body” practices that are messing with design, in particular:

Another popular procedure coming under renewed scrutiny is ICSI (intracy toplasmic sperm injection). In ICSI, sperm or a part of a sperm is injected directly into an extracted egg. In the early ’90s, when doctors first started using ICSI, they added it to in vitro fertilization only when men had low sperm counts, but today doctors perform ICSI almost routinely—procedures more than doubled between 1999 and 2008. And y et, ICSI shows up in the studies as having higher rates of birth defects than any other popular fertility procedure. Among other possible reasons, ICSI allows sperm to bypass a crucial step in the fertilization of the egg—the binding of the head of the sperm with the coat of the egg. Forcing the sperm to penetrate the coat may be nature’s way of maintaining quality control.

Emphasis mine.

This is a really fascinating and well-done article and I urge you to read it all and share it with friends; its conclusions seek policy solutions to the problems we’re going to face and takes a starkly secular view of the thing — which is appropriate for the publication — but for Catholics, I wonder if we should not ponder this in light of Humanae Vitae, and the great mysteries that are our gift to consider every day, and feel a little humbled by all we still do not know.

1987 NY Times:
Growing up with Older Parents is Special. Perhaps less so than thought.

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About Elizabeth Scalia