Privatizing Procreative Liberty in the Shadow of Eugenics


Dov FoxFollow

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John Robertson is renowned for the theory of ‘procreative liberty’ that he expounded in his pioneering book, Children of Choice. Procreative liberty captures the ‘freedom to reproduce without sex’ above and beyond the ‘freedom to have sex without reproduction’ that are recognized by constitutional rights to abortion and birth control. Most controversial among Robertson's work on procreative liberty was its application to prenatal selection. Unless the state had very good reasons, he argued, people should be free to access reproductive medicine or technology to have a child who or would be born with particular traits. Prospective parents in the USA today face no official limits in using sperm banks, egg vendors, IVF clinics, or surrogacy agencies with an eye toward choosing for certain characteristics. But should they be protected, this essay asks, when mix-ups or misdiagnoses thwart the selection of offspring traits? The best answer to this question extends the theory of procreative liberty from government restrictions to professional negligence. It also demands sensitivity to genetic uncertainty, the limits of private law, and the history of eugenics in America.

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Journal of Law and the Biosciences