Homosexuality: Should we interfere in the womb?

In a March 2 column, theologian and Southern Baptist seminary President Albert Mohler created a bit of a stir when he allowed that a traditional Christian view of homosexuality was not threatened if innate factors turn out to be involved in the development of same-sex attractions. I was glad to read his thoughts on that point. However, more controversial were these points from his ten point conclusion:

7. Thus, we will gladly contend for the right to life of all persons, born and unborn, whatever their sexual orientation. We must fight against the idea of aborting fetuses or human embryos identified as homosexual in orientation.

8. If a biological basis is found, and if a prenatal test is then developed, and if a successful treatment to reverse the sexual orientation to heterosexual is ever developed, we would support its use as we should unapologetically support the use of any appropriate means to avoid sexual temptation and the inevitable effects of sin.

So Dr. Mohler rightly does not favor abortion, but he might favor non-lifethreatening pre-natal manipulations. In what appears to be an indirect reference to the Mohler suggestion in #8 above, Alan Chambers discounted efforts to manipulate development. He says:

But, I don’t believe that a pill or surgery or holding someone will provide the results that some hope for—there is no quick fix or formula to changing one’s sexuality. Instead, most successful and longterm change occurs when one decides to daily submit their mind, will and emotions to the Lordship of Jesus Christ. Some find freedom from feelings and attractions while others simply find freedom from an identity that was incompatible with their faith.

First, I can’t resist pointing out the reference to Richard Cohen (“holding someone”), but the main point is that Alan does not favor the kind of early intervention suggested by Dr. Mohler. There are several big ifs in Dr. Mohler’s point #8 that I believe will keep us from realizing such an ethical dilemma for quite awhile. We have few clues how hormones might work pre-natally to effect sexual orientation in humans. Much work will be needed to define the mechanisms, if they exist at all. Furthermore, while such brain differentiation may be a direct causal factor in sheep, it may not be so direct in humans. Following the thinking of Bem, hormones or genes might in some way craft a brain that leans toward a same-sex sexual organization but certain socialization factors also may be important. One of the most significant problems for me is the possibility of unintended consequences of manipulating something pre-natally. While applying a patch or pill might mitigate against same sex attractions, it may lead to heightened aggression or other consequences unforseen. Finally, I am just nervous about suggestions to design children; I don’t like where that might go. I am not reassured that those making decisions like that might share my religious world view. I am always aware that somewhere else, or at some other time, others who don’t like some characteristic I hold dear, might find a way to make modifications that make sense to them, but would be abhorrent to me.

UPDATE: 3/15/07 – David Crary of the AP has a story on the reaction from the right and left to Dr. Mohler’s article.