If You Regulate Adoption, Can You Regulate ART?

I’ve been thinking a little more about yesterday’s post and some comments on the blog and on Facebook (though not all on this post).   In particular, I’ve been thinking about a different way to approach questions about regulation of access to ART in particular and parenthood more generally.  

Let me start from a different point.   Generally we seem to be comfortable with the idea of regulating adoption.   I don’t mean to suggest that we all agree on what exact regulations should be in place.  Indeed, the eligibility of single people and unmarried couples (including lesbian and gay couples) to adopt is very much in contention just now.     What I mean is, there seems to be broad agreement that there should be some regulation of who can adopt.   There’s not a large contingent out there arguing that we should do away with all home-studies and let any person who steps forward become an adoptive parent.  

I’ll even go a step further down this path.  There’s agreement that the eligibility to adopt should turn on whether you’re likely to be a good parent.   One has only to look at the current debates about the suitability of lesbian or gay couples as adoptive parents to see this.   One side contends that children need a mother and a father, and hence lesbian and gay couples are deficient while the other contends that lesbian and gay couples can provide a perfectly good home for children.   The thing to notice for the moment is that both sides tacitly agree that the question is whether lesbian and gay couples can be good parents. 

Shouldn’t this reasoning apply to ART?  Back when Nadya Suleman and her octuplets were in the news, I considered regulation of ART for a bit.   Suleman’s case dramatically illustrated the nearly total lack of regulation of ART.   (Given that ART is particularly important to single women, lesbians, and gay men wishing to have children, the prospect of regulation is a bit frightening.)    This time I want to approach the same question from a different angle. 

The arguments in favor of regulating access to adoption are clear and uncontroversial.  Why would the arguments for regulating access to ART be otherwise?   Why wouldn’t we say that only people who can be good parents should have access to ART?   (Perhaps I haven’t quite captured the question we ask before allowing adoptions.  The key point here is why wouldn’t we ask the same question before allowing ART?)  

Somehow we think of ART as a completely different thing from adoption.  Perhaps it is because ART is a medical procedure and we don’t tend to regulate access to medical care, except by making the cost of it out of reach.   Generally speaking you are allowed to buy any medical care you can afford. 

This distinction may have some explanatory power–it may help us understand why initially approach adoption and ART so differently.   But on closer examination, it’s not a very satisfying distinction to me.  

Consider this:  One implication of thinking about ART and adoption differently is that there will be people we would never allow to adopt because it is so clear that they’d be unfit parents, but these same people can use ART and essentially buy their way to a child.   Does that seem like an acceptable result?   

Of course, we do regulate access to ART–it’s expensive and only folks with money can generally afford it.  But it seems to me there’s an interesting case to be made for some more systematically child-oriented regulation of ART, even if I’m not sure I’d like it.        At the very least, I think it is worth a bit more thought.

6 responses to “If You Regulate Adoption, Can You Regulate ART?

  1. The purpose of child adoption is to find suitable, safe homes for children with no parents (orphans) or children whose parents and extended family are unable or unable to provide safe homes for them, despte receiving the rsources they need to to do so.

    Adoption is NOT about finding a kid for everyone or anyone who wants one! No one has a “right” or an “entitlement” to a child!

    Adoption is very much UNREGULATED right now because it is largely proviatized as for-profit entrepneaurial businesses. Even so-called “non-profit” agencies have expenses and salaries to covr. Thus, currently, it boils down to whoemver has the money to pay for a child, generally obtains one. Even pedophiles have adopted children!

    This is wrong. Very wrong. We need far MORE regulations of who can arrange adoptions; more regulations on fees and where they go — all in an effort to stop the ever-increasing supply and deamnd baby brokering and global trafficking of children.

    Now…if you are talking about the adoption of special needs children from foster care – of which there are 129,000 who COULD be adopted, then agree. In that segment we need to make access to those willing to care for them a bit more accessible, but still use caution. And bear in mind there are no crystal balls to determine who will make a good parent. Even motivation is not necessarily a guide to that. Some of the world’s most vulnerable children have been seriously abused by those who took the trouble to foster or adopt them – i.e. did not just have them by accident.

    Let’s just never forget it is the rights of the children that must come first, over that of any adults needs, wants or desires.

    Mirah Riben, author, “The Stork Market: America’s Multi-Billion Dollar Unregulated Adoption Industry”

    • I accept the need to review/regulate who gets to adopt (though I don’t accept all restrictions, of course.) And perhaps adoption is under-regulated at the moment–I am not an expert.

      What is striking to me is that the case for having some oversight of adoptions is generally accepated but the similar point for ART is controversial. Why? Is it just that we are used to unrestricted access?

      And does everyone agree that no one has a right or entitlement to a child? This seems to me to be a critical and very controversial statement. Yet notice how much less controversial it would be if you said “no one has an entitlement to be an adopted parent.

  2. Julie,

    No one does have an entitlement to be an adoptive parent; it is a privilege.

    Again, adoption is not intended to SUPPLY people with children!

    And why is it at all controversial to say that no one has a right or entitlement to adopt? Do we have a right or entitlement to a lover or a spouse? Do we have a right or entitlement to a home or car?

    Do amputees have a right or entitlement to someone else’s limbs or the blind to another’s eyes? Do you even hear them whining about it?

    Life hands us what it hands us. Some of us have good health and some don’t. Some of us are given great genius and others not. And some of us are blessed with children, some are not.

    But no one has any guarantee or God-given, or legal “right” to any of these things.

    • I’ll accept your point as to adoption–I think most people do. I haven’t been arguing with you about that, or at least I have not meant to.

      I am trying to explore the extent to which one can make the same point with respect to use of assisted reproductive technology. Does one have an entitlement to use that technology? An entitlement as long as one has the money? Or would we say there is no entitlement, it depends on your capacity to serve as a good parent?

  3. Adoption is my area of expertise. Having said that, my personal views on reproductive technology are that it is fine to use medicine to help with the medical issue of infertility, with the two caveats:

    1) BUYING eggs and sperm are erroneously called “donation” and in fact involve a multi-billion dollar industry and thus limit access to such means to those who can afford it. (Read Sparr’s “Baby Business”)

    2) Anonymity should be totally outlawed for any such purchases of the basic roots of a human life as it creates people who cannot ascertain their medical history, heritage etc. is cruel, inhuman and extremely selfish and lacking in forsight.

    People want what they want – even when that “thing” they want is a human being who does not remain and infant but who will grow into a self-sustaining human with rights of their own. What about their right to know their truth?

    There are now many many websites, blogs, forums, email lists etc for children of these anonymous “donors” who are searching for their truth and many are not too happy that this was done to them. They are at risk of committing incest unknowingly and there chances of ever locating their “donar” are slim to none.

    Intentionally bringing a child into the world holds great responsibility and must be done with the child’s needs in mind – not just your own.

    The whole RT industry needs controls and regulations, just like adoption, it’s the wild west and anyone who can pay gets these services and is able to create a human being. One mother who recently did so when she was so old she died before her twins 3rd birthday. Many others conceive far too many babies than expected or they can practically care for.

    Then there are added dilemmas of what to do with fertilized embryos that the mother does not want implanted.

    Science has advanced far too quickly for laws to keep up.

  4. “Why wouldn’t we say that only people who can be good parents should have access to ART?”

    This is the crux of you question.

    But what is a “good parent” and how do we make that judgment for adotpion or ART?

    Is it based on income, marital status, age? Sexual orientation, race?

    Currently all parenting by any means – including natural – seems to be based on the first three criteria. We tend to judge some women as too young, too poor to have babies and those women are encouraged to give their babies to others who are more mature and who have “more advantages” to offer a child.

    It’s ok to be a single mom, if yu are mature and wealthy enough to not need support from agencies designed to provide resources for those in need.

    The public outrage lashed upon Nadya Suleman as compared to the love shown Jon and Kate Plus Eight exemplifies of such discrimination. The majority of those up in arms were so because they feared she’s be on welfare.

    We live in a capitalistic society that days if you can afford it, then you deserve to have it, even when the “it” is a human being. Conversely, some would go s far as to advocate the sterilization of the poor and surely think they have no “right” to be parents.

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