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First Comes Marriage: Why No One Has a Right to a Child

Jennifer Roback Morse

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In Vista, California, an infertility clinic with a policy of artificially inseminating only married women is being sued by a lesbian woman for sexual orientation discrimination. In Indiana, a law was introduced and quickly withdrawn that would have confined the use of artificial reproductive technologies to married couples.

The superficial appeal of the lesbian's case is that having a baby is a right, from which no one can be excluded, no matter what their marital status. The ill-fated Indiana law was shot down because its opponents appealed to the same intuitive sense, widely felt by Americans, that people have a right to have a baby.

Whose Rights?

There is some legal precedent for believing that procreation is a fundamental right. The Supreme Court has held (in Skinner v. Oklahoma) that sterilization cannot be used as a criminal penalty because the right to have children is a fundamental right, but this right surely cannot mean that anyone who wants a baby is entitled to a baby, and that someone is required to give them one.

Let me be blunt: There is no right to a child, because a child is not an object to which other people have rights. If that were true, then parents would be owners of their children, rather than their stewards or guardians. The well being of the child could be, and would be, sacrificed to the "rights" of the parents. If we are born as objects to which other people have rights, when do we become persons with rights of our own, and why does the woman's "right" to have a child trump the child's right to have a father?

Read the entire article on the Touchstone Magazine website (new window will open).

Posted: 02-Jan-06



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