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In The Ethics of Choosing Children, author Simon Reader discusses the notion of bioethics and technologies of reproduction (such as ART - Assisted Reproductive technologies, in-vitro fertilization and various forms of prenatal testing) which allows for selection of not only sex, but the termination of and the selection of children with the preference for various traits over others. Reader acknowledges that there is both a social significance and a personal significance in such selections, as well as the notion of choice in the matter.
Reader draws from various readings of others to develop his argument against the use of such technologies while taking a philosophical and analytical stance. As such, Reader starts by discussing the notion of quality of life and life as a gift. When doing so, Reader states the need to explain and develop the definition of a gift. Reader notes that the definition of "gift" is problematic in itself, especially when paired with notions of humility, responsibility, and solidarity coupled with the question of whether or not it is right to select advantageous qualities and if this causes harm? Reader also focuses on the maternal gift of life, as for the gift of life can only be given from a woman, in contrast to the notion of death. Reader believes that selective reproduction signals a shift from one form of maternal giving to another; "In terms of the gifting that goes on in maternity, the difference that reproductive technologies makes is very clear: we have gone from gifting in ignorance of the recipient, to gifting more purposively to another in whom some trait or quality has been secured - that is, from an absolute stranger to a chosen familiar" (p. 101). As such, Reader notes that in response to technologies of reproduction and the selection of particular traits over other we also decide for and influence future generations, while simultaneously working to overcome natural selection and biology as well as the maternal body in its current state.
Imperative to Reader's argument is the discussion of the connection between the future and the past in terms of morality, gifting and the maternal body and Reader sums up the book eloquently when stating; "It is naïve to think that the shift enacted by choosing children for the ways in which they are familiar to us and our world, rather than admitting strangers and the responsibility for making them familiar with the world as they come - open to their natality - is sociologically and morally innocuous, or else an unqualified good" (p. 132).
In The Ethics of Choosing Children Reader takes a stand against the notion of reproductive selection, discussing, comparing and defining concepts and thoughts of others as well as his own. The book can be described as controversial due to the fact that selective reproduction and forms of assisting reproduction and selection such as IVF is becoming increasingly common, and readers are likely to have already developed their own thoughts in regards to the issue. At the same time, Reader has created an interesting book that makes us think more deeply about such notions from various perspectives, which is beneficial no matter what personal stance the reader may have.
© 2018 Hennie Weiss
Hennie Weiss has a Master's Degree in Sociology from California State University, Sacramento. Her academic interests include women's studies, gender and sexuality.
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