A Woman's Choice? – On Women, Assisted Reproduction and Social Coercion

Søbirk Petersen, Thomas
March 2004
Ethical Theory & Moral Practice;Mar2004, Vol. 7 Issue 1, p81
Academic Journal
This paper critically discusses an argument that is sometimes pressed into service in the ethical debate about the use of assisted reproduction. The argument runs roughly as follows: we should prevent women from using assisted reproduction techniques, because women who want to use the technology have been socially coerced into desiring children - and indeed have thereby been harmed by the patriarchal society in which they live. I call this the argument from coercion. Having clarified this argument, I conclude that although it addresses important issues, it is highly problematic for the following reasons. First, if women are being coerced to desire to use AR, we should eradicate the coercive elements in pro-natalist ideology, not access to AR. Second, the argument seems to have the absurd implication that we should prevent all woman, whether fertile or not, to try to have children. Third, it seems probable that women's welfare will be greater if we let well informed and decision-competent women decide for themselves whether they want to use AR.


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