Symposium Article: Transhuman Babies and Human Pariahs: Genetic
Engineering, Transhumanism, Society and the Law1
By Alexandra M. Franco, J.D.2
About three million children are born in the United States every year.3 The birth of a child
invokes myriad thoughts in the minds of the child’s parents. It is unlikely, however, that any such
thought involves the question: “is my child considered a person under the law?” Indeed, the most
unlikely thought in any new parent’s mind is the bizarre concept that who or what constitutes a
human person under American law has never been conclusively defined. And due to technological
developments in reproductive and other biomedical technologies, the need for such a definition is
Novel technologies enable biomedical pioneers to achieve remarkable feats. In 2014, a
woman gave birth through a transplanted womb.4 In 2016, a woman gave birth to her child using
ovarian tissue which had been removed from her body and frozen since she was nine years old.5
In the realm of non-reproductive medical technologies, physicians can stop a man’s uncontrollable
tremors through brain surgery—without ever opening the man’s skull.6 In 2012, Oscar Pistorius
made history when he became the first double amputee to compete in the Olympic Games7 with
his “blade” prosthesis.8 These biotechnological achievements would have fallen into the category
of science-fiction a few years ago; today, they are a reality.
Technological developments such as the above reflect the remarkable progress of the
biomedical field. Even more astounding, however, is the progress in the realm of genetic
1 This Article was originally presented in its current version at the Loyola University School of Law Children’s
Legal Rights Journal Symposium on October 14, 2016.
2 Alexandra M. Franco, J.D. The Author is a legal scholar focusing on emerging technologies and the law, and is an
Affiliated Scholar at the Institute for Science, Law and Technology. She is also a Judicial Law Clerk for the
Honorable Franklin U. Valderrama, at the Circuit Court of Cook County, Illinois (the opinions presented in this
Article are those of the Author and do not represent the opinions of Cook County). This Article has been in the
making for a number of years, and as such, the Author would like to thank a few people. First, the Author would like
to send a special thank you to her mentor and friend, Lori Andrews, for her support and unwavering encouragement
through this incredible journey. The Author would also like to thank Judge Valderrama, Alexandra Lehr and Dr.
Baker for their support.
3 Births and Natality, CENTERS FOR DISEASE, CONTROL AND PREVENTION,
https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/fastats/births.htm (last visited May 12, 2017).
4 Simon Johnson & Catherine Evans, Swedish Woman World’s First to Give Birth After Womb Transplant, REUTERS
(Oct. 4, 2014), http://uk.reuters.com/article/2014/10/04/us-sweden-transplant-idUKKCN0HT0GC20141004.
5 Kimiko De Freytas-Tamura, “It’s Like a Miracle”: Woman Gives Birth Using Ovary Frozen Since Childhood, N.
Y TIMES (Dec. 15, 2016), http://www.nytimes.com/2016/12/15/world/europe/its-like-a-miracle-woman-gives-birth-
6 Fergus Walsh, Doctors Use Deep-Brain Ultrasound Therapy to Treat Tremors, BBC (Dec. 9, 2016),
7 Laura Donnelly, Oscar Pistorius Makes Olympic History, TELEGRAPH (Aug. 4, 2012),
8 Larry Greenmeier, Blade Runners: Do High-Tech Prostheses Give Runners and Unfair Advantage?, SCI. AM.
(Aug. 5, 2016), https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/blade-runners-do-high-tech-prostheses-give-runners-an-unfair-advantage/.