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Are attempts to have impaired children justifiable?
  1. K W Anstey
  1. Centre for Applied Philosophy and Public Ethics, Department of Philosophy, The University of Melbourne, Parkville, Victoria, Australia 3010;

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    Couples should not be allowed to select either for or against deafness

    Recently, a US couple deliberately attempted to ensure the birth of a deaf child via artificial insemination.1 In opposing this action, I wish to focus on one argument they employ to support it, namely that in trying to have a deaf child, the women see themselves as no different from parents trying to have a girl. Girls can be discriminated against the same as deaf people and “black people have harder lives”, one of them argues. They compare themselves to a minority group.2

    In using this argument to justify their attempt to secure the birth of a deaf child, they make four claims:

    1. It is not wrong to deliberately try to have a child who is expected to experience harm when the harms the child will experience are socially imposed.

    2. As a group experiencing socially imposed harms, the deaf are to be understood as a minority group.

    3. Women and people of colour also experience social harms, and are to be understood as minority groups.

    4. Because the deaf, women, and people of colour are all groups experiencing socially imposed harms, distinctions should not be made between attempts to have a child who will be a member of one of these groups.

    In reply, I will advance two arguments. First, I will argue that this couple’s decision is inherently just. Here I will acknowledge that this couple’s position draws a great deal of strength from its appeal to the experiences of women. My second argument will contend, however, that despite the reasonableness of this choice, the intentional selection of deaf children is indefensible. Granting this couple’s contestable assertion that the deaf ought to be understood as a minority cultural group, allowing individuals to secure the birth of deaf …

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