August 14, 2010

Hughes: What are reproductive rights?

IEET executive director James Hughes has posted some of his responses to a journalist’s questions about reproductive rights. Highlights:
Do you really think there will be equal access for this technology? Why wouldn’t it create a caste system of the enhanced and the non-enhanced?

Equal access to any technological enablement is the result of ongoing political struggle. Societies with stronger civil liberties, trade unions and social democratic parties will provide better universal technological access, from sewers to the Net to gene therapy. In other more unequal societies genetic therapies may exacerbate inequality. The difference in outcomes will be determined by the strengthen of democratic movements and parties, however, not by policies governing the access to technologies. Because of the growth of medical tourism banning access to a technology will simply restrict access to the wealthy, and will not stem the emergence of a two-tier society.

Why do you dislike the term “designer babies”?

“Designer babies” impugns the motivations of parents, who are generally trying to ensure the best possible lives for their children. If parents provide food, exercise and education for children to ensure that they are smart and healthy we praise them as responsible. When they try to ensure the same goods for their children with reproductive technology we imply that they have twisted, malign, instrumental values.

Even in the case of reproductive choices which are cosmetic, such as eye or hair color, we do not slander parents for how they dress or groom their children, but we do if they exercise a simple cosmetic choice before birth. We should stop using the term
Totally agree with J's point about rooting out the 'designer babies' term. It totally trivializes and demeans the pending practice. In its place I've been using the term 'human trait selection.'


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