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In Vitro Fertilization

In Vitro Fertilization

Author: Paul Hannan

Recognize cultural concerns regarding in vitro fertilization and its impact on families.

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Source: Intro Music by Mark Hannan; Public Domain

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[MUSIC PLAYING] Welcome to this episode of Sociology, Studies of Society. Today's lesson is on in vitro fertilization. As always, don't be afraid to pause, stop, rewind, or even fast forward to make sure you get the most out of this tutorial.


So today, I'm going to quickly explain what in vitro fertilization is and a couple of ways that this technology has changed society or is changing society. Now, in vitro fertilization is just when human reproduction is done outside the body.

So you have the sperm from a male and the eggs from the female. And rather than happening inside the female body, inside the uterus, this reproduction happens somewhere else. And it happens-- they often get termed "test tube babies." But it actually happens-- it actually generally happens in less test tube looking thing, more like a Petri dish.

But anyway, the sperm is inserted by doctors into the egg to create the embryo. And then this embryo can be frozen. It can be implanted into a different female. It can be implanted into that same female who gave the egg. But again, it happens outside the body.

Now, there are a couple of ways that this technology can really change society. One of the most obvious ways is that it really can accentuate that non-traditional families are OK. If you are a homosexual couple, how are you going to have a kid? Well, you can adopt a kid.

Well, now, you could actually use some of your actual DNA to create a kid. You'd have to find a surrogate mother. You'd have to find someone to host the egg as it grew. And you couldn't combine the DNA exactly from both parents at this stage. But you could still have the DNA from you being passed on to your child.

And it can happen for even single parents. A single parent might say, I've always wanted a kid. I'm not a single parent because I have a divorce or something like that. I'm a single parent because I chose to get this procedure. Now, I can be a single parent without any real obligation to somebody else that made this child.

With that, it really is allowing for reproductive freedom. The actual act of sex is being pulled apart from the act of creating a child. If you could take the sperm out of a male, your eggs out of a woman and freeze those, then get their tubes tied, they could have sexual partners without ever fearing that they were going to have children. But still, they're not making decision that they never want to have children because they have these alternate ways of passing on their DNA.

Now, it also can lead to genetic screening. You can do early testing of embryos to see if they're showing tendencies towards having genetic defects. So you could have a couple that gets multiple eggs in fertilized. And then they decide-- they have the test done and said oh, well, we're going to choose this one because this other one does not look like it's going to be genetically safe.

Now, as you would guess, this is raising some questions, this process. It's almost an example of cultural leg. So this process, this technological process has advanced farther and faster than the rest of society is able to keep up with it. So in the legal realm, who owns the rights to those sperms and those eggs? And what happens to them after they are produced? Who has the legal power?

If I am the biological father, but I had nothing to do with the raising of them, traditionally, you would say that I still have a right to visit that child. But what if I donated my sperm at a sperm bank? Then that-- do I still have visitation rights if I were to try to track down who used my DNA?

Also, that idea of genetic screening, if you're looking at different embryos, some people would like to define life as starting when conception starts. So if you're genetically screening out things, are you ending life? Are those defects something that we, as a society, want to get rid of, or something in society that we value and think is-- even though it's a defect we don't want, is it something that is naturally happens, and we don't want to get rid of it.

So today's takeaway message, we just learned about in vitro fertilization. And that's when the human reproduction is done outside the body by a doctor. And then it can be implanted into a female later.

Well, that's it for this lesson. Good work, and hopefully, you'll be seeing me on your screen again soon. Peace.

Terms to Know
In Vitro Fertilization

A process where sperm and egg are united outside of the human body and then implanted into the female uterus.