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Woman sitting with her back to the camera

A baby with incandescent green eyes, a baby stamped with a bar code, another with a glowing gold brain: these are some of the images illustrating stories about the gene-edited twin girls born last November after the world learned of Chinese scientist He Jiankui’s controversial efforts to modify embryos with the CRISPR-Cas9 genome editing tool.

The sensational revelation, questionable ethics and powerful new technologies of gene editing have made He’s research the subject of ongoing fascination and debate. But strikingly absent in the news has been any discussion of where the embryos developed, how the babies came into the world and who will care for them.

That is to say, their mother.

She is nowhere to be seen in any illustration of the “CRISPR babies,” and news coverage mentions her only in passing. Dubbed the “Chinese Frankenstein,” it is as if the rogue male scientist is the twins’ sole creator.

I am a humanities professor who teaches bioethics, disability and culture, and I find discussion with my students increasingly focused on the implications of rapidly unfolding genetic science. I am... see more