Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Reproductive Freedom Gone Amok

Author and Research Fellow at the Hoover Institution Jennifer Roback Morse has written an important Town Hall column dealing with reproductive freedom. Morse specifically targets in her article the case of Guadalupe Benitez, a lesbian who is suing a California fertility clinic for "sexual orientation discrimination." It seems that because of religious reasons the doctors there were uncomfortable with Benitez' desire to be artificially inseminated (a weird term in itself that becomes even weirder in this instance) and so they directed her to another clinic that didn't have the same moral scruples. This was in 1999 but the lawsuit is just now making its way through the courts.

The absolute demand for having one's own "biological" baby is problematic on several fronts: the creation of "extra embryos" who are subsequently wasted or discarded altogether; a continuing disregard for adoption; the insistence on a perfect kid with all of the subsequent genetic screening designed to eliminate in the womb those who don't make the grade; and so on.

But Morse shows how the Benitez case is pushing the envelope even further.

...Her claim is that a lesbian woman or an unmarried woman, has the same right to be artificially inseminated as a married woman. Excluding an individual on the basis of marital status or sexual orientation is an affront to that person’s dignity. Doctors who decline to provide an elective procedure deserve to be punished. And the strong arm of the law is the proper vehicle for chastising the insensitive.

This case hastens the day when we will have a society in which any woman, married or unmarried, straight or gay, has a right to be artificially inseminated. But if there is a “right to have a child,” it makes no sense to treat it as an individual right. It is a biological fact that every human being has two parents, one male and one female. The state of California already supports the right of unmarried women to be artificially inseminated. I think this is a mistake, because the state is supporting women in making a plan to deprive their children of any relationship with their biological father. The sperm donor is a “legal stranger” to the child, to use the cold language of the law. However much we might sympathize with the plight of any unmarried woman who wants a child, we really ought to ask ourselves the tough question: what public good is served by giving her what she wants, just because she wants it? Our instincitve answer she has a right to a child leads us astray.

There is no right to have a child. The child is not an object to which other people have rights. The parents would be the owners of their children, rather than their stewards or guardians. The well-being of the child could be, and would be, sacrificed to the “rights” of the parents. The woman’s “right” to a child trumps the child’s right to have a father. It is a bad idea to create a legal entitlement to a child. Such an entitlement undermines the very groundwork of freedom...

The whole column is worth reading -- and pondering. So check it out right here.