The Limits of Reproductive Freedom

David Benatar

in Procreation and Parenthood

Published in print October 2010 | ISBN: 9780199590704
Published online January 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780191595547 | DOI:
The Limits of Reproductive Freedom

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It is argued that the strength or scope of the right to reproductive freedom currently recognized in liberal democracies needs to be reconsidered, such that it does not include a right to engage in very risky or harmful procreation. More specifically, it is argued that if there would be no right to impose risk X of harm Y to some other person in non‐reproductive contexts, then there should be no right to do so in reproductive contexts. Thus, some (but not all) methods, including some coercive methods, of preventing or discouraging such reproduction are morally acceptable. Two arguments against this thesis are examined. The first is the ‘non‐identity’ argument that people cannot be harmed by being brought into existence. This is an argument against the possibility of wrongful life. The second argument is that, although the interests of future people are important, these are outweighed by their parents' right to reproductive freedom. After discerning different senses of a right to reproductive freedom, four arguments for the special importance of reproductive freedom are considered. It is argued that none of them is sufficient to undermine the thesis that there should be limits on the right to reproductive freedom. Because of the long history of bias and arbitrary discrimination in curtailments of reproductive freedom, some suggestions for avoiding bias are provided.

Keywords: reproductive freedom; reproductive rights; non‐identity; wrongful life; coercion; assisted reproduction

Chapter.  8606 words. 

Subjects: Moral Philosophy

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