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New Reproduction Technologies

During the debate on March 15, 2000 which discussed new reproductive technologies (NRTS) issues were raised regarding the positive and negative effects of NRTS. Issues raised by the advocates of NRTS were surrounding infertility, homosexuality, disease, and cloning. All of these factors raised were concerning the moral rights of individuals who were unable to have children of their own without the help of NRTS. The debate continued by stating that denying individuals the right to utilize NRTS was immoral and in effect discriminated against them due to their ‘unfavorable’; situation.

In contrast, the opposition against NRTS raised very negative concerns which included the commercialization of human reproduction, quality control, generating waste products, and the rights of the pre-embryo. These issues suggest that through NRTS children were being commodified and the rights of the pre-embryo were being ignored. The debate generally focused on the rights of the individual, man or woman, versus the rights of the unborn child. The debate was very interesting which led me to look at the impact of NRTS at another angle.

After examining the issues raised in the debate I was left questioning why NRTS exist in the first place? Whose interest do they serve? Who won/lost and what was at stake? The reason I am focusing on these issues is because while I was reading the NRTS articles something stuck in my mind. In What Price Parenthood? Social and Ethical Aspects of Reproductive Technology by Paul Lauritzen there are some issues covered which seem to be left out of the class debate. The societal pressures to utilize NRTS once they are presented to an individual are overwhelming.

Paul Lauritzen raises issues regarding the social aspects of NRTS that I had never considered. I have therefore decided to further research the social impacts of NRTS. My essay has two objectives: first I would like to prove that no one has the moral right to engage in NRTS, it follows under the freedom of choice but it is not the ‘right’; of an individual. Second I will debate whether, due to societal influences, any individual actually ‘chooses’; NRTS or if they are coerced. Rejecting the claim that it is an individual’s moral right to engage in NRTS is based on the definition of a moral right.

A moral right is an opportunity to choose an option that is available to everyone else. To deny a person the right to engage in an activity that every other person can do is morally wrong. It is just like, to use an example from Seinfeld, the ‘soup nazi’; taking control over his soup restaurant by deciding who can have soup and who cannot by the manner in which a person orders soup. In this example the if you do not: step up to the counter, state what kind of soup you want, step to the right, pay for your soup, and leave without speaking; then the ‘soup nazi’; yells, ‘no soup for you, next! ‘;.

It is an extreme example of denying a person the same opportunity as everyone else but it gets the point across that moral rights are based on equal opportunity. The reason, then, that NRTS are not a moral issue is due to the fact that they are expensive and not available to everyone unless the individual can afford it (which the majority of the population cannot). If NRTS were covered under OHIP then they would be considered a moral right of the individual, because everyone would have access to them and denying a person the opportunity to engage in NRTS would be denying them a moral right.

This is precisely the difference between abortion and NRTS. Due to the fact that anyone can have access to abortions, denying a person the ability to have an abortion is immoral. Of course other issues factor into the debate consisting of the unborn child’s right to life, but because abortion is accessible to everyone, it becomes a moral issue. NRTS, therefore, follow under the category of freedom of choice. The freedom to choose without the threat of punishment. This is an interesting topic, choice, which brings into account many other factors which will be addressed in the next section.

Categorizing NRTS under the freedom to choose results in an analysis of what kind of choice an individual really has when considering NRTS. Are individuals able to choose NRTS, or are there so many other factors which come into play that an individual is coerced to engage in NRTS without being able to make an informed decision? Not only am I going to argue that NRTS are not a moral right but I am also going to dispute the idea that individual’s are able to choose NRTS. There are a couple of steps which progress in the discussion of ‘choice’.

First, I would like to examine why choice exists in the first place, why do individuals engage in NRTS? Second, I will analyze the suppression of information regarding NRTS that make it impossible for an individual to make an informed choice. Finally, I will use Paul Lauritzen to show the societal impacts which factor into NRTS, almost creating a situation that forces people to engage in NRTS due to the negative impact carried by the alternatives. It is easy to understand why individuals want to have children. It is a very natural biological desire, and besides they are so darn cute!

It is even easy to understand why people want to have children that resemble them genetically. To hear someone say, ‘Oh, your baby is so cute, I can see she/he has your eyes’;. Although, personally, I believe these such comments are just verbal reflexes rather than actual observances. Anyways, there are many reasons why individuals crave their ‘own’; children. This is not what I wish to debate. The problem, for me, arises when people are willing to undergo intense procedures, which poke and prod, extracting and injecting, on the off chance that one of the many procedures will actually work.

All of this fierce manipulation in order to create a child which genetically resembles its parents. My goodness, it is one thing to have a natural desire to have children, but these procedures are definitely not biologically determined. The entire process of NRTS does not exist because of a natural desire experienced by an individual to have their ‘own’; child, it is a socially and culturally constructed phenomenon that meets the requirements developed by the society we live in today.

It is a process designed because of what others might think, because of the influence of the media, it is definitely not based upon the individual’s needs/desires. Therefore, I believe that NRTS exist to meet the demands of socially and culturally constructed ideals. It has been determined society indicates that individual’s must have children which genetically resemble them, otherwise they are somehow inferior. Okay, I don’t want to be viewed as inferior, I’m going to put all common sense aside and proceed with the extracting, injecting, poking, and prodding until I create a baby that has my genetic make-up.

Excellent, I am happy with my choice so off I go to make myself a baby. Several attempts have been made but no successful implantations have occurred. The medical technologies that told me I am inferior due to the fact that I cannot have a child of my ‘own’ are now telling me that they are still in the process of testing the procedures and, although it has been proven to work, they cannot guarantee that a successful implant will occur.

NRTS failed to inform me about their risks and success rates, they did not ell me that after all of the procedures I went through to implant a fertilized egg (for example) into my uterus, the probability that one will develop into a fetus is not that high. Well, not only has society informed me that I am somehow inferior because I cannot, genetically, have a child; now NRTS have failed so I am left feeling inadequate. Gee, thanks. Well, this is only a discussion paper, so I can go back and change my mind, or I can decide to try only one new technology and if it doesn’t work I’ll just adopt a child.

Right? The pressure to bear children using ones own genetic make-up is overwhelming. After being presented with the option of NRTS, rejecting the opportunity to utilize them is extremely difficult, as shown by Paul Lauritzen. His article analyzes NRTS from a personal perspective, having explored many avenues himself. This was Paul’s response to the issue of ‘choice’ and the societal influences that gives choice a negative connotation. For once an individual is presented with a treatment option, not to pursue it is, in effect to choose childlessness and to accept responsibility for it.

From a situation in which infertility is a relational problem for which no one is to blame, it becomes an individual problem for which a woman or man who refuses treatment is to blame. Reproductive technology structures the alternatives such that a patient is ‘free’; to pursue every available form of assisted reproduction or to choose to be childless. (pp. 106-7). Paul Lauritzen describes the pressures to utilize NRTS exquisitely. He re-affirms that just because an individual has the freedom to choose NRTS, does not mean that freedom does not come without a cost.

Choice takes into account those who want to exercise this choice, but it is much more difficult to exercise the freedom to not conform, not to choose, and not to utilize NRTS. Lauritzen raises some interesting issues regarding the pressures to choose, and how it is much easier to conform to societal pressures than to choose to be ‘childless’. Society makes such a big deal out of the freedom to extinguish all possible resources in order to indulge in nature’s biological desires, that they often overlook the cost of that freedom. How natural and biological are NRTS anyways?

Is it worth all of the consequences that are frequently associated with NRTS? How much of a choice do individual’s have regarding NRTS? Throughout this paper I have discussed reasons why no one has the moral right to engage in NRTS and why it is difficult to state that an individual can choose NRTS. I am obviously not advocating NRTS, but I am also not stating that NRTS should be morally wrong, since there is no moral issue to begin with. The point of my essay is to inform people about the risks of associating NRTS with such words as ‘rights’; and ‘choice’;.

Further investigation reveals that using such terms to describe NRTS has repercussions. I am advocating for a more informed view on the issues of NRTS, not regarding the moral rights and wrongs, but regarding the societal pressures to conform and utilize the technology when it is presented as an option. The issues surrounding NRTS go much further than infertility, homosexuality, commodification, and the rights of the pre-embryo. It is necessary, when discussing NRTS, to take into account the social influences, because I believe they are at the root of NRTS.

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