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Many people believe that procreation is permissible in light of the powerful interest would-be parents have in rearing children. This paper challenges that assumption, and progresses in three sections. First, I argue that childhood is bad for children in many significant ways. Second, I suggest that the badness of childhood poses a challenge for those who think that an interest in occupying the role of parent can ground a moral right to procreate. Analogous role cases illustrate that we do not normally think it is permissible to put individuals in a bad state—even temporarily—so that we might help them out of it. For instance, it is clear that one should not injure others in order to create a need for doctors, and thus satisfy her interest in occupying that role. Finally, I argue that even if we concede that parental interests are capable of morally justifying procreation, these same interests also limit the exercise of procreative rights. The unlimited procreative freedom assumed by many, and enshrined in various human rights documents, cannot be justified.


sarah hannan_0

Sarah Hannan received her D.Phil. in Political Theory from Oxford. Her dissertation was entitled “Balancing Parental Authority and Children’s Rights: A Role-Based Solution.” While at Stanford, Hannan joined the Spencer Project, examining equality of opportunity in education. She developed sections of her thesis for publication and work on issues surrounding the purported right to procreate. She is an Assistant Professor at the University of Manitoba in Winnipeg, Canada.

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