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Eighteen Ways to Make a Baby

Classroom Activity


Objective
To consider some of the ethical, legal, and social issues related to allowing a post-menopausal woman to give birth.

Materials for each team
  • copy of "Motherhood After Menopause" student handout (PDF or HTML)
Procedure
  1. Tell students they will be looking at the ethical, legal, and social implications of a case involving in vitro fertilization, which involves taking a woman's eggs, fertilizing them in a lab with a man's sperm, and then transferring the resulting embryos to a woman's uterus a few days later to develop naturally. The case involves a woman who becomes pregnant after menopause and has a child at 63 years old.

  2. Organize students into groups and give each student a copy of the "Motherhood After Menopause" student handout.

  3. Read the case study as a class so that the situation is clear to everyone. Allow students time to discuss their opinions about this case. Have each group present its opinions; allow for dissenting opinions among group members. Have each group write a paragraph summarizing the group's majority opinion and a paragraph summarizing the group's minority opinion.

  4. To close, record the different viewpoints presented by students on the board. With students, identify the major themes in the arguments and allow students time to debate those themes.

  5. As an extension, have students research and debate some of the issues regarding sperm or egg donation, such as how many individuals may be part of the process and who has what rights and responsibilities for the resulting child.

    When Talking About Reproductive Technology
    Be sensitive to students' comfort level when discussing infertility and ethical issues. Some students may not have prior knowledge of new reproductive technologies. You may want to review the procedures involved in artificial insemination by donor, surrogate embryo transfer, surrogate motherhood, and in vitro fertilization. (See Resources below for more information.)

Activity Answer

In general, as a woman ages, her chances of becoming pregnant decrease and the health risks to the fetus and the mother increase. Assisted reproductive technologies often offer these women and other couples with fertility problems the only hope for having a child.

According to an interview on The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer, Arceli's doctor, Richard Paulson, says the upper age limit set by his clinic is an arbitrary number, chosen years before Arceli's case. Paulson says the limit is based on known averages of when a woman experiences menopause and the ability to bear children. The clinic's limit of 55 years old is about five years older than the age of natural menopause, and about 10 years beyond the age of natural childbearing, according to the interview.

In terms of age requirements, some women maintain that as long as they meet health requirements, they should be allowed to take advantage of assisted reproductive technologies.

Opponents of post-menopausal pregnancies question whether the health risks of such a pregnancy and the age of the parents in relation to the child are unfair to the expectant child.

In analyzing the case, students may have opinions that are based on emotional, ethical, legal, or social grounds. Accept all responses for discussion, being sensitive to each student's viewpoint.

Links and Books

Books

Andrew, Lori B. The Clone Age, Adventures in the New World of Reproductive Technology. New York: Henry Holt and Company, 1999.
Explores the legal and ethical ramifications of the many changes in reproductive technology.

Silver, Lee M. Remaking Eden: How Genetic Engineering and Cloning Will Transform the American Family. New York: Avon Books, 1998.
Explains the scientific advances behind reproductive technologies.

Web Sites

NOVA Online—18 Ways to Make a Baby
http://www.pbs.org/nova/baby/
On this Web site, read how many ways there are to make a baby, learn some reasons behind the fears of cloning humans, follow the path of male and female fertility from infancy to adulthood, and delve into mitosis and meiosis.

Fertility Race Part Seven: Twenty Years of Test-Tube Babies
http://news.minnesota.publicradio.org/features/199711/20_smiths_fertility/part7/
Describes how in vitro fertilization techniques have developed over the past 20 years. Includes some relevant statistics, a glossary of terms, and a list of links for additional information.

Standards

The Motherhood After Menopause activity aligns with the following National Science Education Standards:

Grades 5-8

Science in Personal and Social Perspectives

Science Standard F:
Science in Personal and Social Perspectives

Science and technology in society

  • Science influences society through its knowledge and worldview. Scientific knowledge and the procedures used by scientists influence the way many individuals in society think about themselves, others, and the environment. The effect of science on society is neither entirely beneficial nor entirely detrimental.

Grades 9-12

Science in Personal and Social Perspectives

Science Standard F:
Science in Personal and Social Perspectives

Science and technology in local, national, and global challenges

  • Understanding basic concepts and principles of science and technology should precede active debate about the economics, policies, politics, and ethics of various science- and technology-related challenges. However, understanding science alone will not resolve local, national, or global challenges.

  • Individuals and society must decide on proposals involving new research and the introduction of new technologies into society. Decisions involve assessment of alternatives, risks, costs, and benefits and consideration of who benefits and who suffers, who pays and gains, and what risks are and who bears them.

Teacher's Guide
Eighteen Ways to Make a Baby
PROGRAM OVERVIEW VIEWING IDEAS CLASSROOM ACTIVITY IDEAS FROM TEACHERS RELATED NOVA RESOURCES INTERACTIVE FOR STUDENTS




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