Publication Date



reproductive health, birth outcome


From ancient times, humans have tried to improve reproductive outcome, that is, to give birth to healthy, beautiful babies. Both folk traditions and medical theories offered hope that inform or monstrous births could be avoided. While most efforts were ineffectual by modern standards, some may have been beneficial. It was not until well into the twentieth century that clearly demonstrable therapies were developed to improve birth outcomes. However, those therapies were almost as limited as the ancient techniques, in light of the possibilities of genetic therapy in the twenty-first century. In the following essay, we will look at the history of medical and ethical ideas of influencing birth outcome, and of what use they may be in guiding our consideration in an era of the map- ping of the human genome and genetic engineering.