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Do Genetics Make A Parent?

Does Genetics Make A Parent?

I am sure the initial response of most people to this question will be a resounding “yes, obviously” to be followed by a quizzical look as to whether the initial query was intended to be rhetorical. However, in an era where technological advances in the field of third party reproduction have far outpaced the law, societal definitions and cultural mores, the answer is far from clear. Is an adoptive parent simply a legal fiction? If a man uses donor sperm, is he any less the father? In a situation where an Intended Mother has to use the services of an egg donor and a surrogate to have her child, is she only the mother because the law deems her so? If the Intended Mother is not the “mother”, then would it be the egg donor or the surrogate? Talk about Solomonic decisions!

Professor Julie Shapiro takes a stab at answering some of these questions:

I think I’ve been fairly clear about my own view–which is that while the person with the genetic connection may be an important person, she or he should not be considered a parent simply because of the genetic connection. A number of commenters have been equally clear that they disagree with me on this. They espouse what I will call for now the genetics-makes-a-parent point of view. (I do not mean to give this viewpoint an objectionable label and if what I have chosen is objectionable, I will change it. I just needed some sort of short-hand way to refer to it.)

As I think about the genetics-makes-a-parent point of view, I have a series of questions. The first, and perhaps most important question is what the virtue(s) of this perspective are. The best arguments I can think of would be that it serves the rights/interests of children and/or that it serves the rights/interests of adults. I’d like to consider these possibilities separately.

Undoubtedly, Professor Shapiro will be re-visiting this issue in the months and years ahead as she continues her insightful dialogue into some of the most perplexing issues facing the field of ART.


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