Master of Arts
Date of Defense
Jill Delston, Ph.D.
Prospective Parent Disagreement is an important issue in bioethics that has been upstaged by the related debate on abortion. Of the few pieces of literature that focus directly on this topic, perhaps none is better known than Christine Overall’s controversial book Why Have Children?: The Ethical Debate. In the third chapter, Overall discusses both manifestations of prospective parent disagreement, and she makes an argument that fathers should always be held financially responsible for the child their sperm creates, even in the case where the father does not want the baby. She justifies this claim by suggesting that the procreative asymmetry inherent in prospective parent disagreement is justified by the asymmetry displayed by each parent’s workload during pregnancy. She further claims that this dynamic holds true even in cases of deceit and purloined sperm, because the child’s interests always trump the financial interests of the father. This paper disputes Overall’s analysis of prospective parent disagreement by contending that her argument relies upon victim-blaming and misconceived notions of future asymmetries to succeed. Firstly, I argue that Overall’s argument for the purloined sperm case relies on an unfeasible, excessively cynical worldview and the psychological fallacy of victim-blaming to succeed. Secondly, I convey how the inseminator did act responsibly in the purloined sperm case and why this invalidates any potential financial responsibility he might have towards the resulting child. Furthermore, I draw an analogy between the inseminator of the purloined sperm case and traditional sperm donors, and I argue that there is no morally relevant distinction between the two subjects if the child’s interests and well-being always trump the financial interests of the father. Finally, I argue that Overall mistakes a future, potential asymmetry in the procreative workload as justification for the procreative asymmetry inherent in prospective parent disagreement, and I offer a possible solution to quell this procreative asymmetry while respecting the procreative, bodily, and genetic rights of both the gestator and inseminator.
Potter, Jordan Gabriel, "Purloined Sperm, Victim-Blaming, and Procreative Asymmetry: A Critique of Christine Overall’s Analysis of Prospective Parent Disagreement" (2014). Theses. 241.