Lynn Parotti's The Blastocyst's Ball: A Journey Through the Drug Induced Stages of IVF
by Natascha Vazquez
"Besides formal interpretations of the piece, the title provided by Parotti is a direct insight into the content of the works. They abstractly portray the process of assisted reproduction, or in-vitro fertilisation (IVF), in which several eggs are removed from the ovaries, externally fertilised and then—as embryos—are returned into the uterus in the hope that they implant and become a pregnancy.
Woman having IVF are given special reproductive hormones to encourage several eggs to develop in the ovaries. Final maturation of the egg itself is induced by the administration of a further hormone. 36 hours later, the fluid containing the eggs is drawn from the ovary with a needle, this is usually performed under light sedation with a doctor using ultrasound to check proceedings. The eggs collected from the ovary are then mixed with a sample of the male partner sperm, which has already been washed and concentrated.
The eggs and sperm are left in an incubator set at 37 degrees for 24 hours so that fertilisation can take place. During this time, only one of the many sperm cells will penetrate the outer layer of the egg and achieve fertilisation. Following fertilisation, the cells divide and multiply and form an embryo. After 2 or 3 days, a healthy embryo will comprise around eight cells. It is then transferred to the uterus using a thin, flexible tube where it is left to implant and form a pregnancy.
Although IVF is a helpful tool for infertile couples, there is some controversy with the misuse of this technology. Aldous Huxley suggested that “test tube baby” technology wasn’t actually about infertility, it was about eugenics. Eugenics is a set of beliefs that aims at improving the genetic quality of the human population. IVF was about making super-babies: better babies, stronger babies, smarter babies, with an aim to make the perfect baby. Rather than it being of interest between infertile couples, it would be of interest to government and authoritarian states. Why would we allow any ordinary people to fall in love and have babies? There is less control that way. Could we control the process in a test tube and select specific traits in children that would be useful for society? The concern of this technology is in its misuse. Through IVF, are we going to breed ourselves to improve ourselves?"
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