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Why Have Children?: The Ethical Debate

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In contemporary Western society, people are more often called upon to justify the choice not to have children than they are to supply reasons for having them. In this book, Christine Overall maintains that the burden of proof should be reversed: that the choice to have children calls for more careful justification and reasoning than the choice not to. Arguing that the choi In contemporary Western society, people are more often called upon to justify the choice not to have children than they are to supply reasons for having them. In this book, Christine Overall maintains that the burden of proof should be reversed: that the choice to have children calls for more careful justification and reasoning than the choice not to. Arguing that the choice to have children is not just a prudential or pragmatic decision but one with ethical repercussions, Overall offers a wide-ranging exploration of how we might think systematically and deeply about this fundamental aspect of human life. Writing from a feminist perspective, she also acknowledges the inevitably gendered nature of the decision; although both men and women must ponder the issue, the choice has different meanings, implications, and risks for women than it has for men. Overall considers a series of ethical perspectives on procreation, examining approaches that rely on reproductive rights; on fundamental religious, family, or political values; and on the anticipated consequences of the decision for both individuals and society. She examines some of the broader issues relevant to the decision, including population growth, resource depletion, and social policies governing reproduction. Finding the usual approaches to the question inadequate or incomplete, she offers instead a novel argument. Exploring the nature of the biological parent-child relationship--which is not only genetic but also psychological, physical, intellectual, and moral--she argues that the formation of that relationship is the best possible reason for choosing to have a child.


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In contemporary Western society, people are more often called upon to justify the choice not to have children than they are to supply reasons for having them. In this book, Christine Overall maintains that the burden of proof should be reversed: that the choice to have children calls for more careful justification and reasoning than the choice not to. Arguing that the choi In contemporary Western society, people are more often called upon to justify the choice not to have children than they are to supply reasons for having them. In this book, Christine Overall maintains that the burden of proof should be reversed: that the choice to have children calls for more careful justification and reasoning than the choice not to. Arguing that the choice to have children is not just a prudential or pragmatic decision but one with ethical repercussions, Overall offers a wide-ranging exploration of how we might think systematically and deeply about this fundamental aspect of human life. Writing from a feminist perspective, she also acknowledges the inevitably gendered nature of the decision; although both men and women must ponder the issue, the choice has different meanings, implications, and risks for women than it has for men. Overall considers a series of ethical perspectives on procreation, examining approaches that rely on reproductive rights; on fundamental religious, family, or political values; and on the anticipated consequences of the decision for both individuals and society. She examines some of the broader issues relevant to the decision, including population growth, resource depletion, and social policies governing reproduction. Finding the usual approaches to the question inadequate or incomplete, she offers instead a novel argument. Exploring the nature of the biological parent-child relationship--which is not only genetic but also psychological, physical, intellectual, and moral--she argues that the formation of that relationship is the best possible reason for choosing to have a child.

30 review for Why Have Children?: The Ethical Debate

  1. 4 out of 5

    Marissa

    An inspiring, intriguing and thought-provoking book, Why Have Children? addresses the moral and ethical implications of procreation. Overall pays particular attention to feminist theologies and the rights of women to control their own bodies and make informed decisions regarding reproduction. She argues that children should never be seen as a "means to an end" and should not be used to simply satisfy cultural, religious or familial norms, fulfill previously made 'promises' to partners or would An inspiring, intriguing and thought-provoking book, Why Have Children? addresses the moral and ethical implications of procreation. Overall pays particular attention to feminist theologies and the rights of women to control their own bodies and make informed decisions regarding reproduction. She argues that children should never be seen as a "means to an end" and should not be used to simply satisfy cultural, religious or familial norms, fulfill previously made 'promises' to partners or would-be grandparents or fortify the human species. She also covers topics such as overpopulation, parental age, poverty, IVF, adoption, and medical reasons not to procreate. She believes that we must cease questioning the childless as to why they choose not to have kids; Instead, we should look closely at the true reasons why we become parents and whether or not we would be more than 'just' competent parents. A parent herself, the author has written an incredibly well researched and balanced book. I would recommend this to anyone interested in the topic, and commend Overall for her work and for bringing these ideas into the mainstream.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Erica

    Why Have Children? The Ethical Debate by Christine Overall is a phenomenal philosophical exploration of one of the few questions that everyone at some point, consciously or not, confronts. The decision to procreate, as Overall argues, is one of the most fundamental and important decisions that a person makes in their life. And it’s so rarely treated as anything more than an individual and highly personal preference that this very thorough, rational, moral analysis of the question is simultaneous Why Have Children? The Ethical Debate by Christine Overall is a phenomenal philosophical exploration of one of the few questions that everyone at some point, consciously or not, confronts. The decision to procreate, as Overall argues, is one of the most fundamental and important decisions that a person makes in their life. And it’s so rarely treated as anything more than an individual and highly personal preference that this very thorough, rational, moral analysis of the question is simultaneously shocking and immensely valuable. Last year my best friend gave me the audiobook I Can Barely Take Care of Myself: Tales From a Happy Life Without Kids to listen to as my husband and I moved from Providence to San Francisco. One of the chapters, my favorite, was about how people feel entitled to weigh in on the decision not to have kids. An anecdote she tells, one I’ve lived more than once, is at a party a perfect stranger, minutes into a conversation, brings up kids (usually their own) and then asks if she intends to have any. The author (and I) usually answer no, and try to move on. But then the stranger feels compelled, like some sort of child-bearing evangelist, to tell her (and me) how big a mistake it is, how much we’ll regret it, how having children is the single most important thing they’ve ever done and she (and I) are incomplete humans for not wanting to do it. It’s exhausting. Sometimes I just want to say “I’m barren” and walk away. But that’s a lie, I know that I’m fertile, and yet I know that neither child-bearing nor child-rearing is part of my life plan. And I don’t feel the need to justify it, especially not to strangers. So the premise of Why Have Children? was an absolute surprise, and a welcome one, to me. The author argues persuasively that the higher moral burden is not on those choosing not to have children, but in fact on those choosing to have children. Because, essentially, the choice not to have children has fewer potential risks of harm both to the parent, to the possible child, to the society, and importantly to the environment. She examines the two questions of inherent rights: does one have an inherent right not to have children, and does one have an inherent right to have children. She finds that the former, the right not to have children, is stronger than the right to have children, ethically, but that there is a right to have children under specific moral circumstances. And that right has to do with the creation of a relationship with the child. She examines a number of often-given reasons for wanting to have a child—the continuance of the family/species, the desire to love and be loved unconditionally, the sense of social expectation or prestige—and finds them all lacking. There are good reasons, she argues, for wanting to have a child, but these are not them. I’m not going to tell you what they are, because I think you should read the book. It’s philosophy, but at a level that is approachable for the non-philosophers among us. There is some dense reasoning, but it’s explained thoroughly and in a way that approaches accessibility. The most engaging chapter for me came towards the end of the book, where she examines the environmental impact of reproducing and how that bears on our right or obligation to have or not to have children. The final chapter was perhaps the other most interesting part of the book, if only because she argues that unconditional love is in fact not a valid reason for wanting to have a child, and not even a desirable condition of parenting after a point. It’s another extremely well-thought-out argument that is shocking, perhaps even offensive to some of our social norms. But, as she says: The idea of having unconditional love for an individual who is older than six or seven [providing for normal development, which she does earlier] suggests that it does not really matter who the loved one is. If love for a person is truly unconditional, then it is unrelated to the loved one himself. … But who the loved one is does matter. Real human love is love for particular human beings. We love people for who they are. And most people want to be loved for who they are, not loved in a way that is indifferent to their particularities. … But another and much better kind of conditional love is the kind that says, “I love you for who you are; I love you because you are you. I love you because of what you do, what you say, and what you are becoming. Your needs, hopes, and choices endear you to me.” Ultimately, she says and I agree, the moral burden is heavier on those wishing to reproduce. It is in fact not an unreasonable thing to ask potential parents to consider their abilities, motivations, and capacity as parents to form a relationship that values their child for who their child is, and not who they hope the child will be. And, as she concludes, it is not an unreasonable thing to consider our environmental and societal impact in making these choices. Regardless of where you stand on this question for yourself, this book is immensely valuable in understanding all the various approaches, reasons, and questions one might ask when deciding whether or not to become a parent. And frankly, if you are already a parent, there is some great advice for how to parent ethically in here. And not that it should matter, because her reasoning is extremely elegant and sound, but when I was telling someone about the book the first question (and seemingly the only one they thought was relevant) was “does the author have children?” The answer is yes, two, and she discusses it in the beginning and again at the end of the book. Review posted on www.alluringlyshort.com [I tweet quotes from books I’m reading, and other stuff too, @ericamena]

  3. 5 out of 5

    Shélah

    This is a well-thought out and mostly balanced view of reproductive choices. Overall deals with most subjects sensitively, and while it certainly may offend some people’s sensibilities (i.e., those not liberal), it is a mostly thorough and logical analysis of procreative choices. The prose is accessible (although the type face is decidedly tiny). It is, unfortunately, only a western look at the problem (although thankfully at the same time as I am sure none of us in the west are truly able to ass This is a well-thought out and mostly balanced view of reproductive choices. Overall deals with most subjects sensitively, and while it certainly may offend some people’s sensibilities (i.e., those not liberal), it is a mostly thorough and logical analysis of procreative choices. The prose is accessible (although the type face is decidedly tiny). It is, unfortunately, only a western look at the problem (although thankfully at the same time as I am sure none of us in the west are truly able to assess the different issues faced in the developing world), and (oddly) only looks at Canada and the United States. Certainly issues are different in Europe where populations are higher and potentially problematic in island nations like the UK, but there is no reason why she couldn’t have included Australia and New Zealand, and indeed many European and Asian countries. Perhaps as a Canadian she does not feel qualified to comment on the issues faced outside of North America. However, Australia would seem to be the most similar to Canada in terms of population:size ratio as well as values rather than the United States, which is decidedly more conservative, not to mention reproductive services are limited due to the nature of their healthcare system as well as different laws. I do think this book is a valuable (necessary?) introduction to the topic, and hopefully exists at the very least to start people asking the hard questions even where I disagree with Overall, because there are some deficiencies (at least, there seem to be from my limited knowledge of bioethics and philosophy). * As a caveat, I do hope that these deficiencies do not deter anyone from reading the book, because I think it is ultimately worthwhile and insightful. Obviously as a book on bioethics taken from a purely philosophical viewpoint the use of improbable hypotheticals is useful for making various points. However, with the exception of the environmental implications of having children in the west, Overall fails to look at any hypothetical scenarios related to the offspring themselves. That is, would-be parents are thought to be morally justified in having a child if they can provide that child with better than adequate care so that their life will have more positives than negatives (or at least will be viewed as such), but she doesn’t consider the implications that having degenerate children may pose. Obviously nobody knows before reproducing (and usually for many years following) which children will contribute to society and which will leech off of it (many people do suppose they know, but they are mistaken and can only make statistically based estimates). But if we are looking at hypothetical cases involving non-existent mechanisms of ectogenesis, should we not consider the implications of having a child who is sociopathic even when that (currently) cannot be known? If whether or not having a child who will suffer is ethical is worth discussing, shouldn’t we also discuss having a child who may (and improbably will in at least a small way) cause others to suffer? The question here is not whether or not to reproduce, but what parents are actually capable of dealing with. Because we cannot know what kind of children we may have, there should be a discussion of reproducing when you know that you have parental limitations. If you are not prepared to be the parent of an exceptionally difficult and potentially destructive child (as any child may be), should you consider reproduction? This question is never asked, and it should be. Overall does discuss adequate versus exceptional parenting, but this is only in the context of parenting “normal” offspring, which many people do not have. Secondly, I found her discussion of impairment to be somewhat flawed. For instance, Overall’s discussion of the theoretical case of a woman with Tay-Sachs choosing to reproduce – apparently morally wrong – is problematic for numerous reasons. If someone with Tay-Sachs believes their life (however filled with pain) is worth living enough to perpetuate it through offspring, who are we without Tay-Sachs to say anything to the contrary? If I know that my child will suffer and die, does this make me obligated not to produce that child? There are too many unknowns. If you were to look in a crystal ball and see that your child will die from a brain tumour at the age of four that is diagnosed at age one (therefore suffering for more than half of their life), are you morally required to not have that child? Or are you morally required to do everything to make that child’s four years valuable to the child? The reality is, in four years there could be a medical breakthrough and your child may be spared, or that (since you know about the brain tumour) you could have the child screened and find it when it is still operable. The point is that knowing your child will suffer and die is not a reason to not reproduce, because we all suffer and we all die (a point Overall makes numerous times). Only a person who has suffered through Tay-Sachs themselves can rightly say whether a life of Tay-Sachs has inherent value or not, just as only a person who lives with HIV can choose to risk passing it onto their offspring. Overall is not qualified to make this judgment, because no sound philosophical argument can take into consideration human experience as a whole. Additionally, what if a woman with Tay-Sachs were to become pregnant (that is, unlike in the above, not to have planned her pregnancy)? Is she morally obligated to abort her fetus to prevent it from suffering in the future? Does this not come into direct conflict with her own right to bodily autonomy should she prefer not to subject herself to an abortion? On page 168, Overall’s discussion of infants born with impairments culminates into this: that we (as parents, or a society) may be happy with an infant’s impaired existence while simultaneously mourning the harm and difficulty their impairment has caused and will continue to cause. This is a disastrous allegation, and ableist despite her attempts to treat disability with sensitivity. It assumes, ipso facto, that being able is the desirable way to be, when in fact there is no evidence to support this fact. Many people with impairments or disability not only would not wish to be able-bodied, but acknowledge that their disability is fundamental to who they are. If interested, please read the following: http://www.autreat.com/dont_mourn.html If you haven’t the time or inclination, what Jim Sinclair states in this brief view of autism is that being autistic is not a tragedy, but simply another way of being, and one that is inherently valuable in its own right. To deny this fact is to reject autistic people who would not exist outside of autism – they would be someone else entirely even if in a genetically identical body. Even my own disability has significantly altered my outlook and experience to the point where I would not be the same person without it. Should any of us be required to give back who we are in favour of some alternative unknown who may or may not be better just so that we will not be subjected to societal pity and/or resentment? What these few paragraphs indicate is that (1) I am philosophically confounded; and (2) that choosing whether or not to reproduce has no easy answers. And despite my criticisms, I do think this book is a valuable tool when one does not know what questions to ask or is simply interested in the bioethics of reproduction from a female viewpoint. Even though you or I may disagree with Overall’s conclusions, the conclusion is not the point, it is the asking of the questions that is important. As Overall herself says, reproduction is not just a question of ethics or morals, but it is ultimately “nonrational” (if not irrational) and may not be entirely bound within an ethical framework. Even when you boil the reproductive question down to the most basic ethical questions, there are invariably arguments that will lead you to whatever conclusion you prefer to come to. There is no easy “yes” or “no” answer to whether or not each of us as individuals should choose – at some point in our lives – to reproduce. But having an honest look at ones motivations for choosing to have one or more children is the least prospective parents should be required to do: not doing so is most certainly morally negligent, and we in the west live in a world where such negligence is no longer acceptable. * This book is recommended for everyone, whether you have children or not, and whether or not you are capable of reproduction. This is a conversation everyone should be able to have, because we are all invested in the perpetuation of the human species.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Tom

    A really fascinating book, the arguments of which should be considered by anybody interested in having children. Overall's argument is based on two important and underserved principles: first, that the burden of justification falls on those who *want* to have children; and second, a recognition that childbirth (and, frankly, childrearing) calls for a lot more from women than it does from men. It's incredibly refreshing just to see in writing the statement that not wanting to have children is, it A really fascinating book, the arguments of which should be considered by anybody interested in having children. Overall's argument is based on two important and underserved principles: first, that the burden of justification falls on those who *want* to have children; and second, a recognition that childbirth (and, frankly, childrearing) calls for a lot more from women than it does from men. It's incredibly refreshing just to see in writing the statement that not wanting to have children is, itself, a sufficient justification for not having children. While Overall ultimately comes down on the side that having children can (and often is) ethically justified--and she should, as she has children herself--she takes on and critiques many of the common justifications for having children effectively. Other chapters deal with interesting ancillary questions to the main line of argument: overpopulation, children with genetic impairments, and even the argument (rejected by Overall forcefully) that having children can *never* be ethically justified. Whether you intend to have children or not, it's worth reading Overall's survey of the ethical literature and hearing out her arguments.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Josh

    Where to begin? I'm not going to offer much more comment than to say that it is a thought provoking philosophical discussion that could benefit from increased empirical studies on many of the claims therein. I agree with the main assertion that, in our society, there is undue pressure on those who do not reproduce to provide justification for their decision; while the onus truly should reside with those who choose to bring a new human into the world - along with all of the demands that said human Where to begin? I'm not going to offer much more comment than to say that it is a thought provoking philosophical discussion that could benefit from increased empirical studies on many of the claims therein. I agree with the main assertion that, in our society, there is undue pressure on those who do not reproduce to provide justification for their decision; while the onus truly should reside with those who choose to bring a new human into the world - along with all of the demands that said human will place on the environment, economy and society (as well as a plethora of individuals). However, unlike the author who comes down on the side of reproducing (though she claims that this is only for individuals that have carefully considered the option, can provide a situation in which the child can thrive (not merely survive) and is doing so, not out of selfish reasons, but so that they can build a relationship with the child) - I find the variety of arguments for not reproducing far more compelling.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Dennis Diehl

    In the spirit of full disclosure, I agree with the central premise of this book: There are more compelling reasons NOT to have a child than there are to have a child. That said, it appears as though Overall selectively ignores or willfully misinterprets counter arguments to her claims, namely those of Benatar's "better to never have been" philosophy. What's more, the author then attempts to knock down these now incomplete arguments or misinterpretations ad nauseum. This 'dance' grows tiresome and In the spirit of full disclosure, I agree with the central premise of this book: There are more compelling reasons NOT to have a child than there are to have a child. That said, it appears as though Overall selectively ignores or willfully misinterprets counter arguments to her claims, namely those of Benatar's "better to never have been" philosophy. What's more, the author then attempts to knock down these now incomplete arguments or misinterpretations ad nauseum. This 'dance' grows tiresome and frustrating. Added to this, she has a troubling habit of making claims and assumptions about other theories and thinkers that are flat-out unsubstantiated. It pains me to only be able to give a book about a topic so important and under-discussed 2 stars but I expected its handling to be done so with a little more objectivity and care.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Coco

    A prodigious amount of platitudes (that last chapter was truly painful to read) and some nice (scarce) bits that are vastly outweighed by the spectacularly rubbish ones (e.g. her contention that AN is intrinsically misogynistic, her (non)response to the non-identity problem and her discussion of the "purloined sperm" hypothetical case). Not worth starting and - once started - probably not worth continuing either. A prodigious amount of platitudes (that last chapter was truly painful to read) and some nice (scarce) bits that are vastly outweighed by the spectacularly rubbish ones (e.g. her contention that AN is intrinsically misogynistic, her (non)response to the non-identity problem and her discussion of the "purloined sperm" hypothetical case). Not worth starting and - once started - probably not worth continuing either.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Ryan Mishap

    Those considering the titular question as a practical matter in their lives should probably skip this volume unless those involved happen to be philosophy majors, degree holders, or serious amateur aficionados. For this is an academic philosophy tome exploring the issues related to the morality of procreation within the discipline. As such, it would be little help to those deciding to have a kid or not. That said, for those interested, this is a well reasoned and argued book. It initially puts th Those considering the titular question as a practical matter in their lives should probably skip this volume unless those involved happen to be philosophy majors, degree holders, or serious amateur aficionados. For this is an academic philosophy tome exploring the issues related to the morality of procreation within the discipline. As such, it would be little help to those deciding to have a kid or not. That said, for those interested, this is a well reasoned and argued book. It initially puts the onus for justification for choosing to have children on those who want them, instead of the norm in our society. The biggest contribution this book makes, it appears to me, is that she puts feminism and the actual experiences of women front and center. Surprisingly, the many (mostly) male philosophers who have broached this subject failed to consider women's choices, experiences, and needs when debating. The "surprisingly" was sarcastic.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Ramsey

    Very informative and thought-provoking book! As expected, it discusses issues such as reproductive technology and abortion. But I was pleasantly surprised that the book also addressed issues as far-flung as species extinction and space colonization! I would have given the book 5 stars if it weren't for a few shortcomings. I found chapter 6 to be a somewhat uncomfortable 20-page rant against David Benatar. I had never heard of Benatar before reading this book, so perhaps he is truly contemptible. Very informative and thought-provoking book! As expected, it discusses issues such as reproductive technology and abortion. But I was pleasantly surprised that the book also addressed issues as far-flung as species extinction and space colonization! I would have given the book 5 stars if it weren't for a few shortcomings. I found chapter 6 to be a somewhat uncomfortable 20-page rant against David Benatar. I had never heard of Benatar before reading this book, so perhaps he is truly contemptible. But having no previous knowledge of him, I found Overall's unrelenting attack excessive, and many of her counterarguments unconvincing. Also, I got somewhat tired of being reminded in nearly every chapter that women are the ones who give birth. I totally understand that this point is often overlooked by the male bioethicists who dominate the field, and the role of women should factor into bioethical considerations. However, pointing out the current and historical role of women in reproduction does not automatically refute the arguments of the male bioethicists. I would have liked to see more engagement with their core arguments, assuming that reproduction could hypothetically somehow be accomplished in a gender-equitable manner (perhaps using ectogenesis, as was discussed elsewhere in the book). Still, it was a great read, and I would recommend it to anyone interested in bioethics and/or reproductive decision-making.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Monica Cardenas

    Overall really digs into all of the philosophical questions that exist around having children, or not having them. While she cites many different philosophers, the book is extremely approachable and the ideas are explained clearly. I read it in short bursts over several weeks. To me, it seemed her central message was that motherhood must absolutely be a choice in almost any circumstance, and almost always the choice of the mother over the father, if a disagreement exists. She also shows that reg Overall really digs into all of the philosophical questions that exist around having children, or not having them. While she cites many different philosophers, the book is extremely approachable and the ideas are explained clearly. I read it in short bursts over several weeks. To me, it seemed her central message was that motherhood must absolutely be a choice in almost any circumstance, and almost always the choice of the mother over the father, if a disagreement exists. She also shows that regulating maternity is inherently immoral, and explores the debate over whether it is moral to have children at all when living will always require some level of suffering.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Spicy T AKA Mr. Tea

    A really refreshing piece of accessible, feminist philosophy. Overall does a great job of teasing out the ethical arguments around procreation. Really understandable examples and abstractions to make her point. It was so nice to get this perspective where someone wasn't outright denouncing the idea of children but also not embracing child-bearing. She walked a line and did it well (and made it seem like there was no line to walk). Straight forward ethical examination of having children and she u A really refreshing piece of accessible, feminist philosophy. Overall does a great job of teasing out the ethical arguments around procreation. Really understandable examples and abstractions to make her point. It was so nice to get this perspective where someone wasn't outright denouncing the idea of children but also not embracing child-bearing. She walked a line and did it well (and made it seem like there was no line to walk). Straight forward ethical examination of having children and she used "begs the question" absolutely correctly. Refreshing!

  12. 4 out of 5

    bks

    Ideal and theoretical. Overall argues that while reproductive rights must be respected, there are no solid reasons to procreate or not to procreate. Few arguments really stands out: 1. female autonomy, 2. moral responsibility towards one's children, 3. obligation? to bring the best possible child, 4. whether all/most existence is worth a while. Ideal and theoretical. Overall argues that while reproductive rights must be respected, there are no solid reasons to procreate or not to procreate. Few arguments really stands out: 1. female autonomy, 2. moral responsibility towards one's children, 3. obligation? to bring the best possible child, 4. whether all/most existence is worth a while.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Kevin C

    >I found the message here around whether to have children abit convaluded and didn't really seem to give a concrete reason for a yes or a no. >I found the message here around whether to have children abit convaluded and didn't really seem to give a concrete reason for a yes or a no.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Gwen

    3.5 stars Perhaps I should have taken a philosophy class or two in college to really understand this book... While I didn't always understand the terms and the broader ideas, I appreciated Overall breaking own the topic step by step and relatively clearly--she seems like she's an excellent professor. Overall's conclusion was well reasoned and supported, with extensive examining of the topic from a variety of perspectives. I support her understanding of intersectionality and how childbearing (or n 3.5 stars Perhaps I should have taken a philosophy class or two in college to really understand this book... While I didn't always understand the terms and the broader ideas, I appreciated Overall breaking own the topic step by step and relatively clearly--she seems like she's an excellent professor. Overall's conclusion was well reasoned and supported, with extensive examining of the topic from a variety of perspectives. I support her understanding of intersectionality and how childbearing (or not) decisions aren't made in a vacuum, especially in the current American political climate that strips women of their reproductive agency. Good quotes: - "Without moral recognition and legal protection of their bodily freedom and autonomy, women are little more than procreative slaves. It is essential to respect women's bodily freedom and autonomy because it is simply wrong to subject women to forced reproduction; it is wrong to use women as a means to others' reproductive goals. Such treatment violates their personhood." (21) - "Therefore, respecting the right not to reproduce requires comprehensive education about sex and procreation, access to safe and effective contraception and to timely and effective abortion services, and protection from compulsory heterosexual intercourse, whether by assault or forced marriage." (31) - "...men ought to be aware of the empirical risks and realities that are always attendant upon even consensual sexual behaviors--just as women must be and are. ...It means that men must always worry about being responsible for the outcome of their sexual activities. ...With this requirement, men are placed in the same sort of situation that most women are whenever they engage in heterosexual activities. From puberty to menopause, women (unless they know for sure that they are infertile) must always worry about the chance that they may become pregnant. They must always be concerned about the possibility that even the most reliable form of contraception may fail. And if they do become pregnant, they are always responsible for dealing with the pregnancy--whether by obtaining an abortion or by gestating and giving birth to the baby. Holding men responsible does not put them in any more difficult a position than women are in, and, for the most part, their position is less difficult, given that men never get pregnant." (46-47) - "I agree with the general point that society collectively should provide more support for children and for child rearing. This imperative applies to all children and all parents. Children grow up to be the adults of the future, who will contribute the labor, create the material goods, and grow the food to enable society to continue. Children become adults who provide education and health care to other citizens; who create art, music, films, and books; who develop science and engineer and construct the built environment. Childbearing and child rearing are social goods, not merely individual enterprises. The importance of childbearing and child rearing to society should be reorganized by providing social support for them. There should be a social safety net that ensures, at a minimum, that no child goes hungry or without adequate health care and that all parents are able to raise their children with an assurance that the family will not suffer if one or both parents is or becomes unemployed, ill, or disabled. That social safety net should of course protect single mothers and their children." (48) - "How one makes a procreative decision can be significantly affected by the material conditions in which one is making the choice, and those material conditions include the social policies of the state in which one lives. The connection between individual procreative decisions and social context is most clearly apparent with respect to a society's health-care system and the medical and social services and resources that are or are not provided--services and resources for contraception, abortion, sterilizations, prenatal care, birthing, and infant and mother care, as well as reproductive technologies and treatments for infertility. You can't choose to use contraception or to have a hospital birth if neither is available." (175) h/t: The New Yorker, which seems to hit this topic every few years

  15. 4 out of 5

    Marselia

    Since adolescence I have wondered why asking a woman (especially young woman) "why do you not want to have a child?" in a patronizing or offended tone is socially acceptable and that said woman should provide a justification, whereas on a few occassions I dared to ask a woman "why do you want a child?", the question is treated as stupid, disrespectful, or annoyingly provocative. (Of course, "having a child" in this context is always through old-school biological way, the assumption is never abou Since adolescence I have wondered why asking a woman (especially young woman) "why do you not want to have a child?" in a patronizing or offended tone is socially acceptable and that said woman should provide a justification, whereas on a few occassions I dared to ask a woman "why do you want a child?", the question is treated as stupid, disrespectful, or annoyingly provocative. (Of course, "having a child" in this context is always through old-school biological way, the assumption is never about adoption.) This is the type of question that usually follows "why do you not want to get married?" This book attempts to address this underlying idea from ethical and philosophical lens. The burden of proof (or more accurately, of justification) lies on people who choose to have children. Seeing that reproducing and raising a child is a major, important undertaking, why do people who DO NOT want to do so must justify themselves but people who DO want to have kids are freed from any express motivations or justifications? A very enjoyable read although admittedly written in a mostly scientific voice that can be off-putting to some people. Could be too dry to digest by some people. Still an important, ultimately feminist book.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Sarah

    I'd had high hopes for this one after seeing a review of it in Bitch Magazine awhile ago, but was disappointed pretty quickly. Too much of the book was pedantic and inaccessible. Also, too much time was spent debating the ethics of situations that cannot yet resist in our reality (such as ectogenesis in the case of one parent wanting children and the the other not). I also didn't come out of this feeling like I'd really learned anything much or been offered any enlightening new viewpoints. Really I'd had high hopes for this one after seeing a review of it in Bitch Magazine awhile ago, but was disappointed pretty quickly. Too much of the book was pedantic and inaccessible. Also, too much time was spent debating the ethics of situations that cannot yet resist in our reality (such as ectogenesis in the case of one parent wanting children and the the other not). I also didn't come out of this feeling like I'd really learned anything much or been offered any enlightening new viewpoints. Really, I only finished it because I hate to leave a book unfinished when I can avoid it, and this one wasn't too long.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Shayne

    My first foray into ethics, so I'm naive as far as the discipline here. The technical terms and arguments were a bit above my level, which gave me a sense of accomplishment at the end. That said, I found this book both challenging and bracing. Worth a read if you have strong feelings about having children, which I suspect we most of us do, and don't mind examining those feelings under a microscope. My first foray into ethics, so I'm naive as far as the discipline here. The technical terms and arguments were a bit above my level, which gave me a sense of accomplishment at the end. That said, I found this book both challenging and bracing. Worth a read if you have strong feelings about having children, which I suspect we most of us do, and don't mind examining those feelings under a microscope.

  18. 5 out of 5

    lauren

    While the ethical debate about children was interesting, I was perhaps more into the way she was making her arguments. I was into this academic, rational, well-cited discussion of the ethics around something that is taken for granted. I had to return it before i'd read all that i wanted to, but may return to it when i'm in the mood. While the ethical debate about children was interesting, I was perhaps more into the way she was making her arguments. I was into this academic, rational, well-cited discussion of the ethics around something that is taken for granted. I had to return it before i'd read all that i wanted to, but may return to it when i'm in the mood.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Carrie O'Maley Voliva

    This book was way more philosophical than I signed up for. She looks at every side to every issue related to having children that you could possibly think of. Some of it is quite interesting and thought-provoking, but there was too much "what if this" and "what if that" for my taste. Best left to the academics! This book was way more philosophical than I signed up for. She looks at every side to every issue related to having children that you could possibly think of. Some of it is quite interesting and thought-provoking, but there was too much "what if this" and "what if that" for my taste. Best left to the academics!

  20. 4 out of 5

    Kate

    provided a great unbiased presentation of reasons people use when justifying their decision to reproduce - or not. along with explanations as to why some of these reasons (for and against) may not be valid when it comes to the ethics and morals of being responsible for another human life.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Jay

  22. 4 out of 5

    Lil

  23. 5 out of 5

    Erika Jost

  24. 5 out of 5

    ~

  25. 4 out of 5

    Joy Pasini

  26. 5 out of 5

    Simon Rubinstein-Salzedo

  27. 5 out of 5

    Jessica

  28. 5 out of 5

    Brian

  29. 4 out of 5

    Molly

  30. 5 out of 5

    Kathy

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