Credo: Jennifer Lahl

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People,Liz Essley
Jennifer Lahl is the founder and president of the Center for Bioethics and Culture Network, a former pediatric critical care nurse and the creator of three documentaries on bioethics issues. Lahl, who describes herself as an orthodox Christian, was in D.C. on Monday for a screening of her latest film, "Anonymous Father's Day."

In vitro fertilization is seen as such a godsend, giving children to couples who can't conceive naturally. What are the main reasons you think society should be more skeptical of it?

IVF technology seemed at first to solve a problem. And it was a very real problem -- I'm very sympathetic to people struggling with infertility and desperately wanting to have a baby. But I would submit that it created more problems than it solved. I think it's important for people to understand, first, how highly inefficient IVF is and how much the technology fails. We do a heck of a lot more IVF cycles than we end up getting babies.

It's a very, very expensive technology. If you're poor and infertile, you don't get anything. Most couples who actually get to take home a baby at the end will spend about $100,000. That's a huge amount of money that could maybe feed a small village in India for years.

And it opens the doors to a lot of the other problems we're seeing: the designer mentality.

How close do you think we really are to "designer babies?"

On some levels, we're there. In [my documentary on the sale of women's eggs,] "Eggsploitation," one of the young women I interviewed -- the couple who was buying her eggs required her to take an IQ test, even though she was an M.D.-Ph.D. student. We have enough stories of people who said, "Well, I already have two little boys. It was time for me to have the girl, and so I used the cafeteria menu and picked a girl." We're certainly not doing that in a real way for eye color or height. But we could easily get there. It's become a consumerist enterprise.

Your film "Anonymous Father's Day" focuses on "genealogical bewilderment" in adults conceived with help from anonymous sperm donors. Do you think it's a universal human longing for people to know their parents?

I don't think it's 100 percent, but I think across time and space and cultures, it is a universal phenomenon. Yes, there will be kids who were surrendered for adoption and raised in an adoptive home who never think once or twice about who their biological father or mother was. But I do think it's a uniquely human phenomenon that kinship matters. We look in the mirror and want to know who we look like, who we belong to. We want to make sure that when we're dating somebody we're not falling in love with our half sibling. And I think that's a normal thing we want to encourage. I don't think we want to encourage the notion that these kinds of things don't matter.

At your core, what is one of your defining beliefs?

I think everybody matters. I am concerned about the person who can't have a child, but I'm equally concerned about the child they want to make. I'm concerned about the woman in India who might be paid a couple hundred rupees to gestate a baby. Everybody matters.

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