Until now, we have been able to create humans but not to design them. We know that in many cultures, female infanticide is practiced for the purpose of having a son who can care for the parents in their old age. That practice is frowned upon by most.
But it gets creepier. We already have something of a taboo against creating humans for a purpose other than their own existence. That was behind the fascination with Jon Benet Ramsay, the little murdered girl who seemed to exist more for her mother’s gratification than for her own. A recent movie, “My Sister’s Keeper,” posited a girl who had been conceived in vitro to provide tissues and body parts for an ailing sister (but the movie punted this question in the end). Like so many modern crimes, the issues revolves less around objective facts than around intent and responsibility….
We can look to euthanasia for some parallels and differences. Euthanasia may look like pain relief – or pain relief may look like euthanasia. Doctors are often involved and can properly guide people in making the right choices. In the end, individuals should have the right to control their own life and death. That choice is not available to the individual at the beginning of life; therefore, would-be parents need to be encouraged to be clear about their own motivations. This is not a new issue, but it becomes a bigger one when parents can choose not merely to have a child, but what kind of child to have. Parents have always had to resist the temptation to control their children’s lives. Now they have an even greater ability to do so – and the burden of living with their choices.
So, I think it would be reasonable to have a law against creating a person for any other reason than that person’s own existence. The point of the law is certainly enforcement, but it’s also to have a clear statement of what is acceptable and what is not. A person who exists primarily for another’s benefit is a slave, and we condemn and outlaw that – even though such exploitative relationships certainly exist and may look consensual from the outside.
Laws are an expression of society’s norms, and this norm of non-exploitation deserves clear affirmation.