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Is it ethical to have children? Show more Show less
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The ethical debate over childbearing has many aspects, including parental motives, the autonomy of the mother, the ability to provide for children, and the environmental catastrophe. Some argue that having children is a biological drive rather than a moral decision.

It is ethical to have children under certain conditions Show more Show less

The ethics of childbearing depends on whether parents can provide for their children well and whether parental motives are selfish or not. If parents do not have enough resources to raise a child, then childbearing becomes unethical. Similarly, if the purpose of having a child is only to make the parents’ lives better, childbearing is not ethical.
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Childbearing is ethical if parental motives are not selfish

As long as parents do not have a child for their own sake, childbearing is ethical. However, if the reproductive decision to have a child is selfish (such as for money and personal happiness), then childbearing becomes unethical.

The Argument

To decide whether childbearing is ethical or not, one needs to examine the diverse motives behind reproductive decisions. Poor people sometimes have children solely for financial support from the government. In some countries such as Turkey and Sweden, parents receive family benefits for having children. If the motive behind the reproductive decision to have children is money, childbearing becomes unethical.[1] Parents may also consider children as an economic investment. They may have children only to get someone to support them in their old age. Such a selfish way of thinking makes having a child unethical in these cases.[2] In some cases where a diseased child needs cord blood from a sibling to survive, parents have a new child to benefit the other. If the parents were not planning on having any more children, and they are having the savior sibling only for the sake of the older child, then there is an ethical concern.[3] Even though the purpose of having a child is not for the sake of the parents, it is still for the sake of another individual. For this reason, the parental motive becomes selfish, and childbearing becomes unethical.[4] Some parents also have children for the sake of personal happiness. Having children has proven to be a great source of life satisfaction, self-esteem, and meaning. This fact especially applies to women.[5] According to Kantian ethics, it is morally wrong to use persons as mere means. To use someone as a mere means is to involve them in a scheme of action to which they could not, in principle, consent. In all the cases mentioned above, parents have children to use them as mere means. Therefore, childbearing is unethical in these cases.[6]

Counter arguments

Parents do not have children for personal happiness since research shows that having children can reduce happiness. One of the explanations for this is that children increase the amount and level of a variety of stressors that parents are exposed to. These stressors include time demands, energy demands, sleep deprivation, and financial burden. A study tells that the phases of married life without children are the happiest periods.[5] It is also ethical to produce savior siblings. A 2004 paper published in the Journal of Medical Ethics has concluded that there are no ethical concerns tied to savior siblings since they prevent the death of existing children. The motive is not selfish here.[7]



Rejecting the premises


This page was last edited on Monday, 16 Nov 2020 at 09:32 UTC

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