Do parents make the best parents?

A social trend which has had a tremendous impact upon bioethics is the separation between sex and reproduction made possible by contraception. Why not separate reproduction from parenthood? This is the possibility explored by Daniela E. Cutas, of the University of Gothenburg, and Lisa Bortolotti, of the University of Birmingham, in a recent issue of the journal Studies in Ethics, Law, and Technology.

Why should artificial reproduction be privileged over natural reproduction, they ask. It is inconsistent to demand that the welfare of the child be a criterion for assisted reproduction, but not for natural reproduction.

“What we should not promote and respect are accidental parenting unaccompanied by critical reflection of its exercise, the ostentatious display of reproductive capacities, unquestioned bad parenting, or blind conformity to the pro-reproductive culture,” they claim.

This reasoning leads them to float some radical possibilities for the future of parenting:

Breaking up the “pro-reproductive culture”

Compulsory contraception, regardless of personal convictions. “Enforcing contraception infringes upon people’s liberties. But we should not forget that preventing individuals from receiving assistance to become parents is also an infringement of liberties.”

Confiscating children after they are born from incompetent parents: “For as repugnant as [it]… might seem, the benefits of having some regulation over natural reproduction and subsequent parenting… are not to be dismissed lightly.”

Compulsory parenting education: “the main purpose of parenting education should be to impress upon prospective parents that parenting is not the prerogative of an individual; and that it should not be viewed just as the means to achieving personal fulfilment when other aspects of one’s life are less than satisfactory.”

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