I’ve been dipping into Liza Mundy’s Everything Conceivable: How Assisted Reproduction is Changing Men, Women, and the World. Let me tell you, Everything Conceivable is an earthquake of a book. I suggest juxtaposing chapters 6 and 7 of David Blankenhorn’s new book, The Future of Marriage with chapters 5, 6, and 7 of Mundy’s Everything Conceivable. Ask yourself whether the legalization of same-sex marriage will accelerate the developments described by Mundy. Ask yourself whether Mundy’s account doesn’t bear out Blankenhorn’s deepest concerns. I think an honest person has got to answer yes to both questions.
No, Mundy isn’t directly evaluating same-sex marriage. She’s a liberal feminist journalist offering a brutally honest account of the social consequences of assisted reproduction. Yet, as Mundy makes clear, the broader phenomenon of assisted reproduction is driven by same-sex couples, who have broken the key taboos and set critical precedents, with profound and ongoing effects on homosexual and heterosexual reproduction and family structure. I don’t see how legal same-sex marriage can do anything but magnify these effects.
Take a look at these reviews of Mundy’s books, one from The Boston Globe and the other from the San Francisco Chronicle. I’m struck by how taken aback reviewers at both of these liberal papers are by what they’re reading. It’s not only the book’s account of family structure (which I personally found shocking, despite my relative familiarity with the topic) that is having this effect. Mudy’s extensive and apparently ground-breaking treatment of the role of implanted and frozen embryos in assisted reproduction is clearly hitting these reviewers very hard. While I haven’t seen those chapters, it’s striking that they are powerful enough to give pause even to reviewers at the most socially liberal mainstream papers in the country.
Conservatives have had plenty to say about all of these issues. But maybe it takes a book by a liberal feminist writer for The Washington Post to grab people’s attention. Whatever its biases and limitations, I hope conservatives will attend to this important book. I’m juggling several projects right now, but if time permits I’ll have more to say about the family structure themes in Everything Conceivable down the road.