January 23, 1996, Humanetics, Inc., Washington, D.C.
Sarah fidgets with the buttons on her new dress. Enoch takes her hand in his. “Everything is going to be fine, Sarah. This is an exciting day. You are moving one step closer to being a mother.”
“I guess you’re right.” Enoch leans over to make eye contact with her. Sarah smiles, “I mean, of course you’re right.”
“Did you notice my new look for the big day? Does it say, ‘look at me—I’m about to watch my daughter be conceived?’”
Enoch laughs. “Well, I’m not sure it says all that, but it definitely says, ‘I am a beautiful person brave enough to face anything that comes my way today.’” He kisses her softly on the tip of her nose. “For clarification, the baby is already conceived in medical terms. You’ll watch her be implanted.”
“I know. But this is the day she becomes real to me.”
A group of people in white lab coats interrupts their conversation. “Hello, Enoch,” one of them says. “Good to see you again. This must be the lovely Sarah. It’s a pleasure to meet the world’s next heroine.”
“I’m not sure that I deserve that title, but yes, I am Sarah Cohen. You must be Dr. Abbott.”
“I am. Let me introduce you to the team on this project. This is Dr. Frederick Bradley, a world-renowned geneticist. He has been handling all the delicate DNA engineering as well as doing uploads.”
“Uploads?” Sarah asks.
“Yes, it’s actually a Frederick Bradley term. I’ll let him explain.”
“Hello, Sarah,” says another of the men in lab coats. He shakes her hand. “It’s nice to meet you. ‘Uploads’ are the specifics we chose for your baby. For example, we decided that Baby Anna should have brown eyes, a muscular build, and be taller than average. She has every mental agility and advantage known to us. We spliced, replaced, and enhanced the DNA in the germline to create the outcome we desired. Of course, there is much more to it, but that is a general definition.”
“I see.” Sarah shoots a look to Enoch that makes it clear that she is uncomfortable with the explanation.
Dr. Abbott continues. “This is Dr. Jason Abscom. He is also world-renowned, but in the field of fertility. He supervised the entire fertilization process. He will be living on-site in Israel so he can tend to the surrogate and the baby from implantation to birth. He will be the one to deliver her at term. He is licensed to practice in the States, as well as in Israel.”
Enoch interrupts. “Israel? Why are we doing this in Israel?”
Dr. Abscom reaches out to shake the hands of Sarah and Enoch as he answers their question. “The laws on DNA modification, cloning, and genetic germline editing and engineering are just forming in most industrialized nations. The laws of the United States allow us to do what we have done so far—splicing, editing, and uploading. For full disclosure, I should say they ‘don’t prohibit it,’ rather than ‘allow it.’
“However, this nation will not recognize the birth of a designer baby, or allow for in-utero surgeries which we might need to achieve the optimum outcome. On the other hand, the nation of Israel bans what we have done so far, but will recognize the baby as a citizen and give surgeons leeway to do what is necessary to help her thrive. We chose Holy Family Hospital for her birth. They have a fantastic birthing facility and neonatal unit. It’s located in the small, quiet town of Bethlehem. It’s perfect.”
Enoch and Sarah go silent. Steven continues. “I know travel to and from Israel is not something you expected. Your visiting is unlimited. We will cover the travel costs. The surrogate will agree to live in Israel for the nine months. We reserved an apartment for her on the property of the Holy Family Hospital. There is a suite available for you as well. You are always welcomed.
“One additional advantage of a Bethlehem birth is that you are not likely to be recognized. I imagine this is important to you, Congressman Cohen. Bethlehem isn’t exactly crawling with members of the International Press Corps.”
Steven pushes through the awkward silence of the Cohens to finish the introductions of the remaining man and woman in the group. “This is Counselor Brian McDay. He will be the attorney for the project. He has two degrees from Stanford—one in medicine and one in law. I know both of you have law degrees, so I probably don’t have to explain why in-house counsel is essential to a positive outcome.
Enoch offers his hand. “You certainly do not. We completely agree. I’m impressed with the two degrees.”
“Thank you, Counselors Enoch and Sarah Cohen—whom I must say are also impressive with their two degrees.” All three give out a small awkward chuckle as they shake hands.
“And last but not least, I want to introduce to you Adrienne Morgan. She will be our press representative. She has a law degree from Cornell and is a respected journalist.”
“Don’t I recognize you from the Breaking News show on NBC?” Sarah asks as she reaches for her hand.
“Yes. I was on the show until last month. I resigned to work on this project with you.”
“You gave up a news anchor position for this?”
“I appreciate the concern, but once Steven approached me with what you are doing here, I couldn’t pack up my desk fast enough. In my opinion, this isn’t a ‘little project.’ This is history being made. Going forward, everything changes for the reproduction of the human race. I wouldn’t miss this for anything.” Adrienne shakes the hands of both of the Cohens.
Steven motions for everyone to head towards the double doors as he continues to talk. “We know the Press will be all over the story once we decide to let it break. We want a fair and informed introduction to the world. We agreed Adrienne should be on-board from day one so she can handle this very delicate topic in an informed manner. Cohens, you have met the team. Now, we want to walk you through the science used to make Baby Cohen. Come this way.”
Sarah grabs Enoch’s hand. Hearing “Baby Cohen” in a sentence pushed away all of her doubts. She is going to be a mother, and that is all that matters now. They follow the doctors and attorneys into the science lab, and into their unknown future.