Can two women make a baby?

Dear Cecil:

Two women friends of mine in Italy are intent on having a baby together. They insist that research has been done in the U.S. and that it is possible (even if the method can "only" produce girls). What can I tell them? Where could they go? What should they do?

Cecil replies:

Dear Karin:

They should quit reading those damned little squibs in the popular science magazines, for starters–I get enough screwball mail as it is. Your friends probably saw something about the work of Pierre Soupart, a reproductive physiologist at Vanderbilt University in Nashville.

Soupart used a special process involving a virus to fuse two unfertilized mouse eggs, resulting in a single cell that subsequently began dividing as if it were an ordinary fertilized egg. Soupart stopped his experiment once the embryo (if that’s what it was) got to the 64-cell stage, but it’s possible the thing could have been implanted in a mommy mouse’s womb, so that today we’d have some little rodent waltzing around with two mothers and no father. The mind reels.

Needless to say, Soupart’s procedure is nowhere near the stage where it would be practical for humans–in fact, his real intention apparently was to come up with a way to guarantee a supply of cows, as opposed to bulls. (Your friends, incidentally, are correct in supposing that the product of a female/female union would necessarily also be female. Only sperm possess the Y chromosome necessary to produce males.) The last time Soupart published anything on the subject was in 1980, and I presume he hasn’t made much progress since. If your friends want something small and cuddly around the house, tell them to go out and buy a cat.

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