The news of octuplets born recently near Los Angeles shocked many people, especially since the mother, Nadya Suleman, already had six children and is reported to be jobless and living with her parents. Such rare stories certainly sell newspapers, but they can also lead to knee-jerk calls for overly restrictive regulation, which threaten freedom and innovation.

Already, comment boards and blogs around the Web are rife with calls for greater government oversight of the reproductive technology field. Yet Nadya Suleman’s story is atypical and obscures the great strides being made in assisted reproduction due to the reality that the field is relatively free from bureaucratic interference. An international comparison illustrates this point.

Last month, UK newspapers were gushing with the news of the first British baby to be genetically screened before conception for a breast cancer gene. This is great news for the baby, who will now avoid a 50 to 85 percent chance of developing breast cancer, but it is old news for people living in the United States. According to Sean Tipton of the American Society for Reproductive Medicine, screening for the BRCA1 cancer gene in embryos has been “common practice for at least five years in the U.S.” If that’s the case, why is Britain only seeing its first baby pre-screened for a damaging cancer gene now? The answer is regulation.


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