A Thought Experiment About Licensing Parenthood

I’ve recently finished grading family law exams and I’d give my students something close to a creative writing assignment.  One of my students wrote a piece that set me to thinking.   The topic was whether people should have to get some sort of license or government seal of approval before they become parents.  

Now the reality is clear:  Adoptive parents must be pre-screened, but people who become parents via ART or via intercourse do not.   The question the student wanted to discuss is why this makes sense.   Of course, in the end there are insurmountable practical considerations that make pre-screening of all prospective parents impossible.   True enough, but having read many volumes of sci fi/fantasy in my life, I was moved to consider a thought experiment. 

Suppose through some massive industrial accident humans became unable to reproduce without medical assistance.    Now suddenly everyone needs medical treatment–but let’s say simple treatment–in order to conceive.   Could the treatment be allocated based on some showing of capacity to parent or need?  Or would all people have a right to that treatment?  

Somehow I think relatively few people will say that everyone has a right to the treatment.   I’m being a tad evasive here, because I’m not entirely sure what I think.  But I am not initially inclined to say that everyone has a right to have a child.  After all, as countless comments have pointed out, there is the point of view of the (prospective) child to consider.   

There are endless problems with any scheme of allocation, of course.  Who gets to decide who gets to have kids? On what basis?  Do we review whether you will be a good parents, or whether two people together (assuming two people together apply) will be good parents or whether you have the capacity to support the child, or what?  And what does it mean to be a good parent?  I doubt we’ll all agree and the questions will be endless.

The point is, I’m fairly sure, obvious.   People who adopt are generally subjected to just such an analysis.  And it’s not uncommon to hear suggestions that those planning to use ART (IVF, surrogacy, third-party gametes) be screened or that some other form of regulation be imposed.  By contrast, people who can reproduce via intercourse are free to do so at will, as often as they like and without regard for the well-being of their children.   

Now I’m not prepared to assert that there is some grand plan at work that determines who can reproduce at will and who cannot.   It seems to me it is simply chance.    So does it really make sense to exclude those who are lucky enough to be able to reproduce unaided from scrutiny/regulation?    Or conversely, does it make sense to subject those who are adopting to that scrutiny when it isn’t applied across the board?    And what about people using ART? 

I started with a thought experiment because there are obviously very substantial practical problems with regulating unassisted reproduction.   But I wonder whether pragmatism is really the only justification for differential treatment.   If it is, is it an adequate justification?  

Even if the practical difficulties cannot be overcome, it’s worth thinking about whether the differential treatment is problematic.  It would be good to know whether this is one of those places where you throw up your hands and say “Life isn’t fair.”   And if the differential treatment is only justified by pragmatics, then it seems to me it’s a bit more difficult to insist on the regulation of ART.    After all, the only thing that does is put more people on the “disadvantaged” side of the line.

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44 responses to “A Thought Experiment About Licensing Parenthood

  1. Elizabeth Alexander, JD

    Julie Julie Julie, as a former student of yours I must needs protest. Knowing my propensity for bringing up issues of poverty, this topic is close to my heart. Reproduction is at the heart of freedom, and to regulate it based on criteria is, in essense, making being poor, illegal. Because if any criteria would be applied, definately they would weed out the potential colletcors of welfare. Adoption, well, is an application to be trusted with someone else’s child, not your own, when it comes down to it. So, a reliquishing parent has the right to “screen” for adoptive parents because they are giving up a legal right, if not a natural right. If it came down to ART being the only means of reproduction, then ALL people should be allowed to partake. A Drug user would be reported to child services just as she would if she were getting prenatal screening, and some denied reproduction, just as some abusers are reliquished of their children automatically upon birth. Just my take on it.

    Elizabeth

    • I don’t mean to sound unconcerned about issues of poverty/class/access. But if our paramount concerns is the well-being of children, then I think you can make a pretty good (theoretical argument) that before we let people raise them, they ought to have to demonstrate some capacity to do that well, no matter how they are planning to obtain the children.

      Put slightly differently, I suppose I wonder why we place unassisted reproduction at the heart of freedom? Is it because we can do it by ourselves? (Or in pairs.) That’s why the thought experiment–what if we could not do it by ourselves any more? Does that mean we don’t have the right any more?

      • because sex is a natural biological function and going for expensive medical procedures is not

        • previously on this blog I have discussed my passionate belief in the right to bodily integrity; ie autonomy over one’s body. Regulating unassisted reproducgtion is a gross infringement of that right; regulating adoption is not.
          Regarding ART: I would say that the government does not have a right to regulate what people do with their bodies but they do have a right to regulate the business aspect of it. Since most ART takes place via commercial transactions it is legitimate for the government to regulate it.

        • This is, of course, a clear difference. But the next question (for me) is what follows from this difference. You might say we have a right to engage in sex (that’s an autonomy right) but you don’t have a right to have expensive medical procedures (maybe you can if you can pay for them yourselves but maybe we ought to consider how we (as a culture) are spending our money.

          But saying that you have the right to engage seem to me to lead to the conclusion that you have the right to raise children that may be conceived as a result of your activity. Now I see that if you go with autonomy, then you have the right to have sex and pregnancy results and who is to tell you what to do? It’s autonomy again, I think?

          Relying on autonmy is interesting because it doesn’t have anything to do with the well-being of children. Autonomy is often limited by its effect on third parties. (Isn’t there some famous quote about “your liberty ends where my nose begins or something like that?)

          It’s also why set up the hypothetical to think about. Doesn’t it seem odd that whether or not we screen you as a potential parent depends on odd little factors like whether your partner’s sperm is viable or whether your eggs are usable? If the same person got a new partner with better sperm, suddenly no screening is required. That just seems odd.

          • “But saying that you have the right to engage seem to me to lead to the conclusion that you have the right to raise children that may be conceived as a result of your activity. ”

            No, the right to procreate doesn’t mean there is a right to raise your children. We rightly take children away from abusive and neglectful parents all the time and place them with foster parents, and sometimes those kids are adopted too, as a way of erasing the original parents and assigning new legal parents. Sometimes when a pregnant woman is known to be unfit, she is handcuffed in the hospital bed until she gives birth and her baby is taken away, but she’s still allowed to procreate more, if she’s married, even though they will be taken away too.

            • The same legal differentiation applies to abortion.
              The state does not have a right to coerce a woman into having an abortion no matter how abusive unfit she is. Only once the child is born does the state step in and intervene.

              Bodily integrity is the primary right.

              • true, but individual bodily integrity can’t spontaneously become pregnant. Bodily integrity rules that out, it involves a violation of bodily integrity. Married bodies are considered one flesh and they join with full informed official consent, and that’s how pregnancy can co-exist with bodily integrity.

            • john your restritcing the right to procreate to married people is as much a violation of human rights as anything else being discussed, if not more.

              • No it isn’t, there is no human right to procreate outside of marriage, in fact that is a violation of human rights, since it doesn’t go as far as possible in making sure that the child is raised by his or her parents. Intentional unmarried conception shows a wanton disregard for the rights of the child.

                And remember, as far as restricting goes, I’m only suggesting we prohibit and police against the use of donor gametes and other publicly obvious intentional attempts at procreating with unmarried gametes. I am not talking about policing against unintentional procreation that happens through unmarried sex, except through changing social mores.

                • I just wanted to observe that one you say “there is no human right to procreate outside of marriage” you must really mean “I don’t believe there is a human right to procreate out of marriage.”

                  My purpose in offering this observation is three-fold. First, this isn’t a point on which there is consensus. People have different opinions on the topic.

                  Second, the point isn’t really susceptible of proof, which might in time lead to concensus. It’s grounded in world views or values or religion or something like that.

                  Third, in discussions I think it is helpful to articulate that a statement like this is one of opinion/belief rather than a statement of fact. That sort of clarity helps us all see where we agree and where we disagree. It also helps us evaluate the nature of our agreements/disagreements. So, for example, I think I can say that you and I fundamentally disagree about something (whether intentional unmarried conception shows a wanton disregard for the rights of the child). Further, I think it unlikely we’re going to come to agreement on this point. I do not mean to suggest that this makes discussion pointless–not at all. But it helps to understand that we do have a fundmental disagreement and so it is likely that we will disagree about many other things that follow from the foundational disagreement.

                  • Thanks for not asking me to stop commenting merely because we have fundamental disagreements. For example, I disagree that I should say “I believe there is no right to procreate out of wedlock” rather than assert that “there is no right to procreate out of wedlock.” I think you’re asking me to give up way too much, indeed the whole game by saying that. You and others may “believe” there is a right, but rights aren’t “believed” into existence by consensus, they exist or not.

                    I think that marriage is the first right, and the concept of rights and marriage emerged together, over the same issue of who could have sex with who. There could never have been a concept of “rights” without a concept of “marriage” and vice versa. I can’t imagine that early people were concerned about property but didn’t care about who was having sex with who.

            • True, but it is essentially the reverse of how we treat those who would adopt. Then you have to prove your worthiness first. With natural conception you are presumed worthy unless and until someone proves your unfit–which is actually not an easy thing to do.

              • That’s because we aren’t about to hand a child over to an abuser or put a child in a bad situation. We try to protect children and put them in the best situation possible.

                And with natural conception, we used to have this system called marriage where it took someone else deciding a person was fit enough to marry, and the couple had to show responsibility by consenting to the vows and obligations in front of witnesses and an authority of the state, and that was how we made sure that babies would be born to a good enough situation. There could still be abusers and neglectful people getting married, but we leave it up to the parties to choose wisely. Now, people seem to be saying that anyone can just go make themselves a baby as if it was a right to spontaneously get pregnant with a stranger or impregnate someone for money, but it isn’t. If you want to start making restrictions to improve the situations of natural conception, that’s a good place to start, not with the procreation rights of married couples.

                • I’m somewhat doubtful that marriage ever served as an effective screen about who was going to be good at raising kids. But that’s a historical point about which I lack expertise. But it seems we agree that marriage does not serve this function now. If that is the case, then I’m not sure why married couples should be exempt from (hypothetical) regulation of procreation that other couples or individuals would be subject to.

                  • Sure, preventing unmarried sex and procreation made sure that kids were born to couples that were committed to each other and responsible enough to go and get married, and who considered each other good enough to procreate with. And there was family and social pressure on people to marry someone who would be good at raising kids, even if they had a right to marry someone bad. So marriage was a very effective screen, and I think still functions as an effective screen even if we don’t care about getting social and family approval like we used to, because it still ensures a high level of responsibility just by choosing each other and going through with the act of getting married. The key of course was that people didn’t procreate out of wedlock, if no one married you, you didn’t have children. Now people have children even if no one likes them, by buying sperm or a surrogate mother. So now you want to replace the old screen with a new one, and take away the right to procreate from marriage and subject married couples to your new screen. But why not just go back to the old screen? It’s still there, it’s not completely destroyed yet.

            • john
              you said you were seeing a girl-had she become pregnant and decided to carry her pregnancy to term, you two would have become parents to a ver outspoken kid-lets say a son…..If she was not wanting to get married, would you have thought of yourself as less of a father? Would you prefer a child in that situation be given to some married couple to legitimize him? I’m trying to read between your lines and I’m hoping you accommodate the accidental with love/tolerance..but reject cockeyed master planning – a married person makng babies with someone not their spouse then paying that person to let their spouse pretend to be related to the baby. That does piss me off. Be careful, you dont want to sound like only married men/women should aise their own kids….

              • I’m not married. But yes I have sex with my girlfriend. If that happened, and we didn’t marry, I’d be on the hook for child and mother support just as if I was married to her – essentially if a child is born the state automatically marries me to her and then divorces me, making all children equally legitimate. Whether I would want to marry her and be with her all the time depends basically on how much respect she gives me and how much I’d rather not be married to her. I’d be fine letting her go her own way and only see my son occasionally if that’s what is called for by her attitude towards me, but I’d certainly consider myself my kids father, and her new husband her step father. I don’t think it makes that much difference to the universe if I’m around all the time, the kid might be better off without my great wisdom. But I’d certainly prefer it to be a situation where I was needed and respected as the father and husband and allowed to raise my son.

              • OK GOOD! See John you come off all negative but really you are not so right wing as you seem. A loving respectful marriage between two people who want kids are best suited for planning to conceive. If only one is fertile, going outside the marrige to make a baby with another person…kind of squirly agreed. But no arresting the fornicators leave them alone…they are the happy people. If the government said look you cant abandon your offspring to someone elses care all willy nilly under the table – you have to consent to the relinquish individual offspring much like adoption, records would be clear and public health would benefit. there shoul be no talk of rights to procreate only obligation for the outcome of our actions.

  2. Nobody is seriously suggesting that folks should be screened before conceiving so there is no point in even going there; What they are suggesting is that people who adopt should not be screened.
    We addressed that previously in this blog:
    There’s a world of difference between a child that does not exist yet to be protected and a child that already exists.
    There’s a world of difference between people having their own kid; and people putting themselves out to assume responsibility for someone else’s kid. Even a part time temporary day care worker these days needs to be screened.
    I will now add to that:
    In reality the goverment DOES scrutinize who raises children. If bioparents are found to be abusive the government has the right to step in. Adoption doesn’t mean having a child, it means raising one.
    I will also add that people who depend on the state in order to become parents, might be subject to more state interference than those who don’t.
    ART consumers depend on government and legal activism in order to call themselves legal parents; if so than it is legitimate to raise the possiblity of government regulation.
    The idea rubs me the wrong way because I object so strongly into “protecting” a child that isn’t born yet. But I picture a person known to have a history as a horrendous child abuser. This person now wants another child and is spending huge amounts of money going through intensive medical procedures. Many of us would feel in such extreme cases that SOMEONE should step in, but who?

    • I guess I was trying to take that suggestion seriously, at least for the sake if thinking it through. Right now we screen some people before allowing them to become parents (prospective adoptive parents) but we do not screen others (ART folks and unassisted conception folks). If we put practicality aside, is that a defensible place to draw the line? Is there are more defensible place to draw the line?

      I do see that there is a difference between a child that might exist at some point in the future and one that is here now, but I’m not convinced that this resolves things for me. I will give that a bit more thought.

      Indeed, I’ll generall concede that I need to give this whole topic more thought. That’s part of why I raised it. Is it that we think people who get pregnant on their own are more likely to be good parents, so we just let them get on with it? Is it because they have some natural right to the child they created? Is it only because it is too hard to work out the alternative? Or some combination of all of the above?

      • I think this point is where the “marriage” debate plays in. Don’t mean to open up that can of worms (it’s REALLY messy) but worth exploring and thinking deeply on.

        • I’m not sure I understand why this is where the marriage debate plays in. I understand that the primary argument for limiting access to different sex couples is that only different sex couples have a chance to procreate without the assistance of another party. But I’ve never been clear why anything in particular should follow from that.

          I’m not prepared to say that people who procreate unassisted make better parents, for example. Nor do I think that the essential purpose of marriage is to provide a setting in which children can be raised, though I know some religious traditions frame it that way. Anyway, perhaps it isn’t worth going too far down this road, but for the moment I don’t see the connection.

          • Marriage is a screen, that’s where it fits in. It makes sure that people who create people are committed to each other and promise to support each other in sickness and in health, and that they really consent and know what they are getting into, and hopefully everyone else approves and knows about it and supports it. Marriage is the only screen, if you aren’t eligible for marrying, then you are supposed to not be allowed to procreate together, and if you marry, they you are allowed to procreate together.

            • Marriage as it exists today doesn’t serve the screening function you describe. People get married for a host of reasons (it’s 4:00 a.m. and we’re in Las Vegas) without having much of an idea of the legal commitments included in the institution. Some think about having kids, some don’t.

              That said, I find the idea of a screening process before people are allowed to procreate (on their own or with ART) an interesting one. It’s exaclty what I am thinking about here, isn’t it? Everyone interested in procreating would have to demonstrate some set of attributes, akin to the ones you describe. (I’m not saying I agree with all that you’ve included, but I do think the basic idea is akin to what I have in mind.) So if two people wanted to procreate together, we’d have to be confident they knew what they were getting into, that that had the capacities to raise and child and so on.

            • john it would be so beautiful if marriage were always like that but its not. There are girls like me that hang on to a bad thing wy too long because it was supposeto be that way. Marriage should at least be 2 people believing they’ll stick it out when the say ido – but its all so fragile and tennuous, unlike the bond of blood which is unbreakable. Aparent is a parent married or not. procreation has been around longer tan the chappel you know?

    • “Nobody is seriously suggesting that folks should be screened before conceiving so there is no point in even going there”

      Guess I was wrong- John howard on this blog seems to be suggesting exactly that although his criteria is restricted to whether the parents are married, while having nothing to do with the actual fitness of either parent. Odd, since as Marilyn pointed out, John himself admits to having sex while single, an activity which could easily have led to procreation since no birth control is foolproof. John, do you think you should be imprisoned or fined?

      As for the right to engage in sex without government interference being a basic right, there are enough precedents in the US supreme court for you to look up John to make it not even an issue worth arguing, you can easily check it out.

      • I’m not intentionally conceiving out of wedlock, and if we do accidentally conceive I will be held responsible by the law, and I know it isn’t a right what we are doing, I don’t advertise our sex to her parents or the neighbors, who I respect for thinking we’re maybe doing something wrong and sinful. I wouldn’t mind being arrested for it, to be honest. We deserve a fine and imprisonment. But I don’t advocate that we devote any police force to investigating just what we are doing.

        The only suggestion I’m making is that we should shut down sperm and egg banks and make sure people know that they do not have a right to procreate with anyone they are not married to.

      • There are zero SCOTUS rulings on unmarried sex. Unmarried contraception, yes, and sodomy. yes, but not sexual intercourse.

        • True (I think) but it seems to me that the reasoning of Lawrence v. Texas (the case that struck down TX sodomy ban as violating due process) makes it pretty clear that one has the right to engage in private consensual sexual conduct free from intrusive state regulation. I believe there are some states that still have criminal fornication statutes (laws that forbid sex outside of marriage) but I doubt any are enforced post-Lawrence. This being the case we are very unlikely to see a Supreme Court opinion on sexual intercourse outside of marriage, but I’m not sure that this proves much. Still, the law in this area is somewhat nebulous and subject to change, so one never knows.

  3. If we resort to licensing parenthood I have a suggestion: allow lesbians to be in charge of the licensing process. Given the recent research by Gartrell (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/11/10/lesbians-child-abuse-0-percent_n_781624.html) reporting that in a 20 year study of lesbian parents there is a reported zero percent abuse. Just sayin…

    • There’s much much more to consider here beyond just “child abuse” – defined as the physical kind.

    • do you mean that none of the children in child protective service files had a lesbian mom? What an odd thing to ask a mom accused of abuse “do you date men or women?”
      Houses without men might be less physically abusive but women are capable of physical abuse too. I just don’t see who a person has sex with as being relevant to raising kids, its so separate. can you explain im interested want to understand better.
      .

  4. Newsweek published an absolutely ridiculous piece suggesting that the people involved with the “My Daddy’s Name is Donor” study are somehow involved with a conspiracy to ban abortion. It’s really over the top to the largest degree possible – you can read it here:
    http : //www . newsweek. com/2010/09/16/infertility-wars. html

    I commented in response to this (fill in word for serious disapproval) article. Even the title “Culture War Conservatives…” is just plain wrong. It is not a Liberal or Conservative issue and there is certainly nothing conservative about transparency and regulation. Copied below (I think this applies to this post you made):

    Karen Clark
    This is Karen Clark, the donor conceived co-investigator of the MDND study that you referred to. First I would like to say that regulating “donor” conception is not a “sinister” attempt to outlaw abortion. I would like to direct readers to a response Elizabeth Marquardt made regarding this article which corrects several misrepresentations the author insinuated:
    http : //familyscholars . org/2010/09/16/newsweek-on-the-infertility-wars/

    Secondly I would like to note that regulating sperm/gamete donation is also not a parent vs. child vs. donor issue – regulation simply would be in the best interests of all parties. I personally believe that it would be best for parent(s) and donors to handle these conception arrangements as a “pre-conception adoption” for their (and the future offspring’s) best interest. (meet each other, see counselors, talk to each others families, sign legal papers etc.) BUT I do not think that this could (or even should) be mandated – this is a private matter and (I believe) no outside organization should be allowed to judge parental fitness (unlike post-conception adoption). However, I do think we should mandate regulations in other ways. The IAV is certainly not the only group calling for regulation – donor conception parent and offspring groups are advocating for these same regulations (and have been for quite some time now).

    Such as the International Network of Donor Conception Organizations:
    http : //inodco . org/ which all advocate the following:

    1. End donor anonymity.

    2. Track all recipients, donors and births and safeguard all records in a central, government data bank indefinitely. Information to be accessible by all involved families.

    3. Mandate reporting of donor conceived live births from each donor.

    4. Limit the number of births conceived with the sperm or eggs from any given donor

    5. Require donors to regularly update their family medical history. Medical information to be included in donor data bank.

    6. .Mandate genetic testing for donors and include genetic information in donor bank.

    7. Push our respective governments to inquire into followup health histories of egg donors.

    8. Require mandatory third party counseling for all prospective donors and parents.

    9. Require legal and financial protection for anonymous donors so that they may feel safe to come forward.

  5. If this question is really given thoughtful consideration, the market wouldn’t be a market at all. It would be handled in a similar way as an ideal open adoption. Instead of sperm and egg banks we would have something like pre-conception adoption agencies. The sperm donors would not be paid. They would be true altruistic “donors”. The intended parents and the sperm donor would be required to go through counseling with an independent therapist who doesn’t have any vested interest, financial or personal, in this arrangement and who is well educated in adoption related issues. The intended parents and the sperm donor would be thoroughly screened before they were allowed to proceed. The intended parents would have to meet the same requirements involved with traditional adoption and the sperm donor would have to undergo a similar process. The intended parents would be required meet the sperm donor first – to interview each other, get to know and feel comfortable with each other. Pre-conception, the sperm donor would be considered a father by intent and after conception a father by biology. After all parties agree to proceed, the sperm donor would then be considered a pre-conception father and would be required to sign relinquishment papers for any children he fathers that are born from his donations. At the same time the intended non-biological parent would be required to formally adopt any children resulting from the pre-conception adoption arrangement. This would be strongly encouraged (possibly even required) to be done in full openness within the intended legal parent’s family as well as the sperm donor father’s family. The sperm donor father would be strongly encouraged to play a role in the child’s life, from the beginning. Both the intended/legal parents and the sperm donor father’s names would be required to be noted on the birth certificate.

    • I’ll agree that’s one way it could be handled, but it isn’t the only way. You could decide that ART is like unassisted conception–we don’t regulate it. Or you could decide we only regulate it to the extent it looks like health care–so perhaps you need licensed providers and perhaps you are obliged to meet certain record keeping standards. But you don’t get to screen who has access and who does not. And you don’t require particular arrangments between the players.

      I also think your proposal assumes that the people who provide the genetic material are presumptive legal parents, but that needn’t be true either. Again, it could be that way–it just doesn’t have to be that way.

      If you treat ART akin to adoption why not also treat unassisted conception like adoption? This is really what the thougth experiment was meant to get at. If two people wish to conceive and raise a child, they have to demonstrate their suitability as parents. I understand the practical difficulties–which is why I moved to a science fiction future, where I could avoid them. Is there a theoretical reason why we’d treat the two forms of conception (medically assisted and not medically assisted) differently, allowing unregulated access to parenthood via one route and regulated access via the other?

      • How bout we handle it by arresting and fining anyone who facilitates intentional unmarried procreation? Yeah, it’d require a big police force, but there are lots of people out of work who need jobs, and empty office buildings we could lock people up in.

        Why do people need to be allowed to procure someone else’s child? Are they going to die if they don’t have a kid to kick around, or sleep with like Micheal Jackson? How can anyone justify creating people intentionally?

        • If your first point is that it’s impossible to enforce this imagined restriction, I agree. But that doesn’t tell us whether it would be okay to do it if we could. That’s what I call the pragmatic objection.

          I suppose no one needs a child in the same way we all need food, shelter, etc. But isn’t the key word “all?” Those who can procreate without any assistance don’t need children any more or less than anyone else does. This being the case, it doesn’t seem to me that need, whatever we mean by it, can justify differential treatment.

          • My first point is that we should arrest and fine everyone who facilitates and engages in intentional unmarried procreation. That would mean arresting all the people who work at sperm and egg banks and donors and buyers, and who work in the labs who knowingly put unmarried sperm and egg together, and people who advertise on craigslist, and people who arrange reproductive tourism. It’d be pretty easy to enforce just by walking into the sperm banks and arresting everyone, and monitoring craigslist, and maybe doing an occasional sting operation. Would we catch it all? Of course not, but that’s true of every crime. There would be an assumption that unmarried babies were unintentional, so we wouldn’t arrest mothers unless they publicized that they got pregnant intentionally.

        • hey dont pick on michael. the dad of that kid admitted he lied for the money.

      • And Julie, are you aware that separating marriage rights from procreation rights and giving out separate parenting licenses (good for one child) was what Margaret Sanger suggested in her American Baby code? It was also suggested by another eugenicist, Dr. Saleeby. (I’m leaving the googling to you sorry).

        • I’m not aware of it. But it also doesn’t matter to me that much (given the tiny bit about it I know.)

          Sanger was a passionate advocate for access to birth control as well as a eugenicist. I also believe in access to birth control. Does that necessarily make me a eugenicist? I don’t think so. I’m sure there are many historical and public figures who I agree with in some areas and disagree with in others.

          • It’s not so much the birth control, but the idea that marriages should not have an inherent right to procreate offspring that makes you similar. It’s an abhorrent idea. Marriages should never be prohibited from attempting to conceive offspring, even if some technologies are banned (which would be a first). If you are eligible to marry someone, and you get a marriage license and solemnize the marriage and both of you consent to the obligations, then that’s all the screening there should be. At that point, there should never be any further screening about who is allowed to procreate and who isn’t. Does it mean that some people will be born in less that perfect circumstances? Yes, but who isn’t?

  6. More food for thought (to possibly share with your students?). This is a post submitted to the Donor Sibling Registry by a fellow “donor conceived” adult.

    http : //health. groups. yahoo. com/group/DonorSiblingRegistry/message/12758

    Re: [DonorSiblingRegistry] Ethics of keeping a donor’s identity secret

    “I am interested in this debate because I think it boils down to to whether
    society feels the State should be held to higher ethical standards than the
    individual. I.e. children created from individuals are subject to the ‘lottery
    of life’ whereas if children are born with the assistance of the State, the
    State has some ethical obligation to ensure the rights of that child to have
    access to their genetic identity (if they so wish) are protected.

    Many commissioning parents access Assisted Reproductive Treatment that is subsidized by public money. By providing funding, the State is essentially
    endorsing the practice of donor conception, including the legal and ethical
    implications for the children. Does funding donor conception give the State a duty of care towards the children created from this practise?

    I personally know a donor conceived woman who is about the same age as myself.

    At the time her parents sought fertility treatment her social/legal father had a significant criminal record and had spent time in jail. He was also a severe alcoholic, who developed physical and mental illness from his drinking and consequently she and her siblings (also donor conceived) grew up in an abusive household.

    How would her donor feel about this? Do you think he would have had a reasonable expectation that children conceived with his sperm would grow up in a relatively stable household? Or do you think that sperm donors can only expect their offspring to go into the great lottery of life, where some people luck out and others don’t?

    How does this question tie in with adoption? It is already well established, and seemingly endorsed by society that the State intervenes so prospective adoptive parents undergo checks to ensure they have the resources to raise a child, and they do not have a background that may indicate a threat to the child. Do these background checks amount to an unreasonable discrimination against the prospective adoptive parent, as a person who conceives naturally does not have any restrictions imposed upon them? Should an adoptive parent be able to walk into an orphanage and choose a child, so the child is subject to that old ‘lottery of life.’

    If people agree that adoptive parents should be subject to checks, why would this be different for donor conceived people, where the child is being
    deliberately created, with the assistance of hospitals or clinics who receive
    money from the State?

    Should a child born from donor conception have less rights to their ancestry than a child who is adopted?

    Incidentally, adoption also used to be ‘adult focused’ and was mainly concerned with providing infertile couples with a child to raise. It is only fairly recently that adoption has switched viewpoints to become ‘child focused’ and is now concerned with ensuring the best interests of the child are the primary consideration.

    I hope that assisted reproductive treatment can also shift its focus from
    meeting the needs of adults, to defending the rights of people born from this
    practice.”

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