Racial Classification in Assisted Reproduction


Dov FoxFollow

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This essay seeks to clarify the moral stakes of reproductive practices that facilitate offspring selection according to race. Egg vendors and sperm banks partition donor catalogs along racial lines to cater to customers who want a child who looks like they do. I ask how we can articulate reluctance to embrace this race-conscious approach. I draw an analogy to a 1964 Supreme Court case striking down a law requiring that each candidate’s race be printed next to his name on the ballot. The “vice” of racialized ballots, the Court held, is not just that they “arouse[]” bigotry, but also that they reinforce a divisive conception of citizenship that race should be “an important, perhaps paramount, consideration” in democratic participation. It is similar, I argue, with donor catalogs: by underscoring race, they credentialize a troubling view that same-race families are preferable to multiracial ones. I distinguish four variously salient ways to disclose donor race and propose choice-structuring mechanisms to balance reproductive privacy, decisional autonomy, and racial identity against the conditions that divide us.

Publication Info

118 YALE L.J. 1844 (2009)