Once again I have fallen way behind in the comments. It’s the nature of summer, I fear. As before, I will return to them and do my best to get caught up shortly. Many of the topics cycle round regularly so if there are particular points I miss I trust they will be raised again and I’ll have another chance. To the extent this is avoidance (and I know it is) it’s general (all comments) rather than specific (your comment) so please do not take it personally.
At the same time, it is important to me, too, to add new content and continue the trains of thought that wander through my mind even when I’m on vacation. I’ve been thinking about the sorts of major decisions that are often discussed here. Giving a child up for adoption is for me an obvious and enormous one. Or choosing to adopt a child. Related decisions like deciding not to have children (which might include having an abortion). Or deciding to have/raise children (whether via adoption or some other means.)
While I see these as in a class by itself, there are others that might be somewhat related and I think some of you may view them as of equal magnitude so I’ll note them, too: Providing gametes (eggs or sperm) that will be used by an unknown person to create a child, say. Or choosing to use third-party gametes–and then deciding whether to go with a known provider, a provider who your child could eventually get information about, or an unknown and unknowable provider.
Let’s just agree for the moment that all these decisions are serious ones that might have long term ramifications. None should be made lightly. (I’m assuming we can agree this far even if we don’t agree on whether the decisions around third-party gametes are equivalent to adoption decisions.)
In all these cases, one makes a decision one could later come to regret. So, for example, one could give a child up for adoption but later come to wish one had not done so. Or one could provide gametes for a third person and later wish one had not.
It may even be true that the regret is more likely to flow one way than the other. What I mean is it may be more likely that twenty years in you are more likely to regret having provided gametes than not having provided gametes. I’m not sure if the same is true about placing a child for adoption–partly because I think it must be very difficult to wish that you had when you chose to raise a child. But for the moment I’ll assume it is true–that regret is more likely to flow from placing a child for adoption than from not placing a child for adoption.
What does this mean? What do we do about it?
One thing that seems clear to me is that we need to do our best to set up systems that ensure the people do give these matters thought. But I am not sure what those systems need to look like. It seems to me, for instance, that given general attitudes about children that people who place their kids for adoption in this country do give the matter thought. (This ties back to my point that wishing you had placed a child when you didn’t is almost unimaginable.) Similarly, I don’t think many women casually decide to have abortions–the social context of abortion is such that it is a decision you’d wrestle with. Maybe we need to do more to ensure that people in the third-party gamete context think more about what they are doing–but I’m not sure about that, either.
That’s all open for discussion, but I want to move on to a different point. I think we have to acknowledge that as adults we all make decisions we come to regret and that this is just part of life. Thus, we ought not to make rules that are designed to always force people to choose the less-likely-to-regret path.
To my mind, being an adult, having autonomy, is tied to having the right to make important decisions–even ones you may come to regret. You can take a job that requires you to move across the country, even though you give up a job you like and a community you have lived in. You can end a marriage that wasn’t ideal in the hopes that as a free person you will find a better one, or you can stay in that marriage and pass up the opportunity of establishing a new relationship. We all live with regret, I think, or at least with the danger of regret and I don’t see that in the name of shielding people from that we ought to restrict their choices.
I’m well aware that what I’ve said here requires further refinement but I must run and so I’ll put it up now and see what happens next. Maybe I’ll regret this choice but on balance, it’s worth a try.