I know there’s a lot of discussion in the comments to the last post, and of course I’m quite happy about that. Discussion is good, right? But there’s a point where the comments become cluttered and it’s hard (for me, coming late anyway) to follow it all. So I wanted to try a new post, restating some but then moving along.
At the outset, I want to highlight what I think is the critical question here: “Is being raised by people who are not your genetic parents necessarily bad?” To me the inclusion of the word “necessarily” is critical.
If you leave out “necessarily” and just ask “Is being raised by people who are not your genetic parents bad?” then I think the answer has to be sometimes yes and sometimes no. Because, of course, most of us could probably imagine circumstances or even know circumstances where it has been bad and also those where it has been good. Indeed, one could ask “Is being raised by people who are your genetic parents bad?” and you’d get the same range of answers–sometimes it is bad, sometimes it is not bad. Unless you have some sense that the bad/not bad ratio is dramatically skewed one way or another, this doesn’t really provide any basis for making general policy on the matter. On the other hand, if you can say something is necessarily bad, then you clearly have a basis for arguing for a broad policy solution: Whatever the necessarily bad thing should be ought to be prohibited, say. I hope this moves us away from overreliance on anecdote–something I think we are all prone to.
Now I’m sure it is quite clear to everyone that I don’t think it is necessarily bad. And that means I am open to having kids raised by people who are not their genetic parents. This leads me to look at the other side of the balance: Is there a benefit in allowing people who are not the genetic parents to be the social/legal parents? This is, I think, an independent question, but also an important one.
I think there is a benefit here. There are many people who want to have the experience of being a parent who would not be able to have that experience were parenting restricted to those who are genetically related to children. (People who cannot produce healthy gametes, say. Or people who want to be single parents. Or people who are lesbian or gay.) Being a parent is, in my experience, one of the most profound, challenging and rewarding experiences I’ve ever had. Maybe THE most profound, challenging and rewarding. I am loath to preclude these various groups of people from having a chance at this simply because of the circumstances in which they find themselves. I’m not willing to say–“too bad, but you just cannot have kids, so that’s that.”
So now I’ve got two side of a balance: on the one hand, I think it can be fine to be raised by people who are not your genetic parents. It is not necessarily bad. And on the other hand, allowing people who are not genetic parents to raise children has separate benefits. For me, these two observations lead to the same conclusion–that having access to third-party gametes (and perhaps to adoption as well) is good.
This is not to say that I think there should be an unregulated free market in gametes. I think there is a clear need for thoughtful regulation. We need to consider what sorts of conditions will maximize the chances of a positive outcome for all concerned–and that might include screening and record keeping and who knows what all else. We probably need to consider social conditions as well. There’s lots to be done to get it right/make it better and that’s a task I think worthy of attention