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Thread: Is there a moral obligation to adopt?

  1. #1

    Default Is there a moral obligation to adopt?

    There is a lot of literature out there on the morality surrounding procreation. It usually focuses on the extent to which parents can have duties not to procreate given certain likely facts about the child that would be born, or given certain facts about the capacity of the parents to care for it.

    Obviously every thread has a life of its own and can end up in all sorts of places, but I'd like to begin by asking readers to consider one particular kind of decision when it comes to procreation – specifically the decision whether one ought to adopt rather than procreate at all.

    I have in mind here both cases where you have a fertile couple who are perfectly suitable to be parents (however you want to flesh that out) as well as cases where you have an infertile or same-sex couple considering having a child via surrogacy or some other expensive method.

    Of course there are practical reasons why adoption might not be an option for some of these couples, but we can set those cases to one side for the purpose of this discussion. Assuming no legal or other practical impediments, and assuming that in the case of infertile couples financially speaking it will be more costly to conceive a child than to adopt one, the only reason I can think of why one might not want to adopt is that we have a preference for raising a child who is genetically-related to us.

    The question then seems to turn upon whether this preference is the sort of preference we can legitimately act upon by choosing procreation over adoption – whether we can use it to justify adding another person to an overpopulated world while also depriving an already-existing child of the upbringing they would otherwise have received.

    The strongest way of putting this argument is to say that the genetic factor is merely a fetish on our part and one we ought to overcome in favour of the greater good of providing a home to an already-existing child who needs one.

    Two caveats before I finish:

    First, the question posed is not necessarily about what laws we ought to have. There are lots of reasons why it wouldn't be a good idea to enforce a moral obligation to adopt, even if such an obligation exists. But these would be pragmatic, practical reasons, rather than principled ones, if there is a moral obligation to adopt.

    Second, the question does not assume that people are obliged to go out and adopt, even if they don't want children in the first place (although that's not ruled out by what I've said here). Rather, the question only applies *if* a couple decide they want to raise children at all. *Then*, so the argument goes, provided that certain conditions are met (that there are children in need of homes, that it's not impractical or illegal etc.) they have a moral obligation to adopt rather than procreate.
    Repeal the 27th.

  2. #2
    Dylan2010
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    In a word no, I wouldnt accept that anyone has the right to enforce such rules. Secondly why would you consider passing on genes a fetish? alot of people hope to pass on their traits be it intelligence etc. so there is a logical self interest involved

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    No.

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    Politics.ie Member bob3344's Avatar
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    No, and lets mention the elephant in the living room at this point.

    AFRICA.

  5. #5

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    Quote Originally Posted by Dylan2010 View Post
    In a word no, I wouldnt accept that anyone has the right to enforce such rules.
    I did cover that in the first caveat in the OP. Even if it would not be a good idea to enforce such rules, or if nobody had the right to enforce such rules, that wouldn't preclude the possibility of a moral obligation.

    Quote Originally Posted by Dylan2010 View Post
    Secondly why would you consider passing on genes a fetish? alot of people hope to pass on their traits be it intelligence etc. so there is a logical self interest involved
    It's not clear to me what interest is served by passing on one's genes. I agree that many, perhaps most people do care. But why should we care whether our genes are passed on or not? And are the reasons we have for caring so strong as to justify pursuing that interest by denying a family to an already-existing child?
    Repeal the 27th.

  6. #6

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    Quote Originally Posted by meriwether View Post
    No.
    Why not?
    Repeal the 27th.

  7. #7

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    Quote Originally Posted by bob3344 View Post
    No, and lets mention the elephant in the living room at this point.

    AFRICA.
    You could confine the example to the borders of a single state. Many people think we have stronger duties to our co-citizens: maybe this includes an obligation to adopt them when necessary.
    Repeal the 27th.

  8. #8
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    To be honest, as a gay man, I've considered whether in the long term I would go for adoption or try the clearly less parisimonious route of surrogacy. The latter doesn't appeal to me at all. I certainly think the most important contribution I could make to a child isn't my genetics, but rather the experiences I give him/her which will mould his/her outlook or personality. In such an instance, I would see it as rather vain to pursue a genetic inheritance, especially when there are thousands of children crying out for adoption.

    That said, in the case of procreation, I cannot fault people who want their own children, if for no other reason than that it is far more convenient.
    "Only by applying the most rigorous standards do we pay writing in Irish the supreme compliment of taking it seriously." - Breandán Ó Doibhlín.

  9. #9
    Politics.ie Member livingstone's Avatar
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    In principle, while there remain children in the world who are in need of a loving home, I think couples that adopt probably do more to improve the world than those who conceive a child. I don't think that necessarily translates into a moral obligation per se.

    I also wouldn't say that aversion to adoption is just about genetics but also age. Most children who are placed for adoption tend to be older, while many people looking to start a family will want to start a family from scratch - i.e. raising a new born into a child into an adult. The skills someone has as a parent who can shape a child from birth are not necessarily the same skills as someone who can take a child from a very troubled background and who has already developed values and characteristics.

    Certainly I don't especially care about having children who are genetically related to me, and as such, would plan most likely to adopt rather than used any form of assisted reproduction. But the age of likely children would concern me. And I say that in full knowledge of how selfish it may sound given that older children are often the ones most in need of a stable home of love and security - but I think what I have to offer and what my partner have to offer a child would be better suited to raising a child from as young an age as possible. I think it very much depends on the couple in question.

  10. #10
    Politics.ie Member bob3344's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mercurial View Post
    It's not clear to me what interest is served by passing on one's genes. I agree that many, perhaps most people do care. But why should we care whether our genes are passed on or not? And are the reasons we have for caring so strong as to justify pursuing that interest by denying a family to an already-existing child?
    Intelligence is passed on.

    The side of the debate that has some merit is whether morons should be having large families, though I would wager you won't be tackling that one.

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