Ethics, Sexual Orientation, and Choices about Children

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Parents routinely turn to prenatal testing to screen for genetic or chromosomal disorders or to learn their child's sex. What if they could use similar prenatal interventions to learn (or change) their child's sexual orientation? Bioethicists have debated the moral implications of this still-hypothetical possibility for several decades. Some commentators fear that any scientific efforts to understand the origins of homosexuality could mean the end of gay and lesbian people, if parents shy away from having homosexual children. Others defend parents' rights to choose the traits of their children in general and see no reason to treat sexual orientation differently. In this book, Timothy Murphy traces the controversy over prenatal selection of sexual orientation, offering a critical review of the literature and presenting his own argument in favor of parents' reproductive liberty. Arguing against commentators who want to restrict the scientific study of sexual orientation or technologies that emerge from that study, Murphy proposes a defense of parents' right to choose. This, he argues, is the only view that helps protect children from hurtful family environments, that is consistent with the increasing powers of prenatal interventions, and that respects human futures as something other than accidents of the genetic lottery.

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What People Are Saying

From the Publisher
"In this lovely overview of the arguments for and against prenatal interventions to determine children's sexual orientation, Tim Murphy comes down on the side of parental choice. A thoughtful, thorough, and compelling book,Ethics, Sexual Orientation, and Choices about Children is a must-read for anyone interested in the ethical issues surrounding trait selection for future children."—Hilde Lindemann, Professor of Philosophy, Michigan State University

"Timothy Murphy's provocative book prompts us to reexamine some widely shared assumptions in our discussion of sexual orientation and reproductive choices. He offers a thoughtful and nuanced review of discussions about the use of pre-natal interventions to influence the sexual orientation of one's child. Although such interventions are still hypothetical, they will undoubtedly become real possibilities for prospective parents in the not-too-distant future, and Murphy's book provides a reliable guide to the arguments that have been advanced for and against such mediations."—Lawrence M. Hinman, Professor of Philosophy, University of San Diego

"The argument for this book is not only original but is controversial in just the way a ground-breaking book in bioethics should be: it defends an unpopular position among progressive bioethicists not from a homophobic,conservative perspective that seeks to preserve heteronormativity and heterodominance, but from a gay-affirming, homophilic stance." —Autumn Fiester, Director of Graduate Studies, Department of Medical Ethics and Health Policy, Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780262018050
  • Publisher: MIT Press
  • Publication date: 9/21/2012
  • Series: Basic Bioethics
  • Pages: 194
  • Product dimensions: 6.10 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

Timothy F. Murphy is Professor of Philosophy in the Biomedical Sciences at the University of Illinois College of Medicine at Chicago. He is the author of Case Studies in Biomedical Research Ethics (MIT Press, 2004), Gay Science: The Ethics of Sexual Orientation Research, and other books.

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Table of Contents

Series Foreword vii

Acknowledgments ix

Introduction xi

1 The Controversy: Parents and Their Children 1

2 The Controversy Goes Mainstream 13

3 A Genetic Study Raises the Stakes 17

4 Book Reports, Mostly 29

5 In Defense of Trait Selection 79

6 More Debate 97

7 Beyond Rights 111

8 Not a Few Last Words 123

Appendix: Arguments for and against Prenatal Interventions 139

Notes 143

Bibliography 157

Index 165

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