The problem with reproductive freedom. Procreation beyond procreators’ interests

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Reproductive freedom plays a pivotal role in debates on the ethics of procreation. This moral principle protects people’s interests in procreative matters and allows them discretion over whether to have children, the number of children they have and, to a certain extent, the type of children they have. Reproductive freedom’s theoretical and political emphasis on people’s autonomy and well-being is grounded in an individual-centred framework for discussing the ethics of procreation. It protects procreators’ interests and significantly reduces the permissible grounds for interference by third parties. In this article I show that procreative decisions have far-reaching effects on the composition and size of the population. The upshot of considering these effects allows for the appreciation of the inadequacy of a framework that solely considers individual (i.e. procreators’) interests to discuss the ethics of procreation. To address such inadequacy, I assess costs and benefits of past and present proposals to reflect on procreation in such a way as to consider its far-reaching effects. I conclude by arguing that reproductive freedom should be defended as an imperfect but instrumentally necessary tool. This framing would enable those participating in debates on the ethics of procreative decisions to work towards an ethical framework that accounts for the cumulative effects of these decisions.
Original languageEnglish
JournalMedicine Health Care And Philosophy
Early online date14 Aug 2019
Publication statusPublished - 2019


  • Climate change
  • Eugenics
  • Procreation
  • Reproductive freedom


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