December 3, 2010

Maya Sabatello: "Controlled Parenthood" [CFI conference on biomedical enhancements]

Maya Sabatello is presenting on controlled parenthood and asks: Are the rights and interests of children being considered when using reproductive technologies?

Sabatello includes such repro-tech as PGD, IVF, gender selection, and so on. The influence on the family institution is "tremendous." It has led to a real change in demographic patterns on family structure. A real boon to those couples who would have normally been infertile. Can also help single mothers, older parents, same-sex couples, and so on.

Assistive repro-tech decisions become a collective effort, and extends beyond the prospective mother and father.

Impact on children include an introduction to a world with increased pluralism. Also, genetic commonality varies depending on the type of repro-tech used (e.g. a child can have three genetic parents). The demography is changing, lots of twins and multiple-births. Children can be born to have specific genetically compatible tissue. Cloning may introduce other options and demographic shifts in the future.

Access to assistive repro-tech is based in specific laws and charters around the world. But what are the limits of using these technologies? Are part and parcel of one's right to found a family. A part of human identification and realization.

Also part of other sociological realities -- e.g. the mother who holds of having children while she establishes a career.

Because parents would have to bear the emotional, financial, and other burdens of raising a disabled child, they deserve the right to access these sorts of these technologies.

But opposition to such broad-strokes of parental freedom exists, including ideas of gender equality, access to healthcare, etc. Some believe that the state has no business ensuring that their citizens have access to repro-tech.

Sabatello feels that some courts are ignoring the interests of children in all this. We need to examine this.

A child-centered approach: There is very little information, unfortunately. Not much to go by, but we have to start investigating.

One argument is that a child deserves a right to an open future. They have some rights in trust, and deserve adult protection until they're of age. This can have an impact on non-traditional arrangements, such as gay parenting.

What about deafness and dwarfism by choice? Is the child better or worse off? Bit of grey area here.

Do some rulings put parental needs in opposition to children's needs? What about thinking of group rights and thinking about the needs of the family as a whole? International rights don't really dwell in this area, but perhaps they should perceive the family as a unit.

We need to figure out how the child's voice can inform the process. Thus, a child-center approach.

Has to start from pre-considerations:

  • They don't have the capacity for informed consent
  • We also need to take their web of relations into consideration (what's the context?)
  • We need to re-conceptualize the notion of autonomy - children's autonomy in relation with others, and can exercise rights in relation to others (as a matter of identity); only space in which a child can express their interests and rights
Is the selection of genetic characteristics medically justified? Can they lead to greater risk of side-effects and defects? We need to educate parents about disability and suffering; inform them about difference between suffering and a disability. These are often social constructs of a specific society.

Unlike adults, children do not view disabilities as abnormal. What matters is how they are treated and the attitudes that are expressed towards them. Some children attribute their 'disability' as a part of their social background more than, say, ethnicity. 

Protection of identity is crucial, and is protected by charter of rights. 

Connection between genetic characteristics and genetic identity. Can this someone impact negatively on a child? E.g. disabled identity? Gender identity? Savior sibling? Is there a less sense of worth? Living in the shadow of the other siblings? 

But too many biological factors are being considered here. What about sociological factors? How are they being socialized and treated by society? Take savior siblings, for example, in which those children are just as loved as any other. 

Stats: No differences in identity were found among children raised by hetero or gay couples. 

Children are born into a reality--the only one they really know.

The genetic tie to the family is weak, and does not matter as much as other factors like ethnicity. 

A greater appreciation of the child's voice should be increasingly considered.

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