April 24, 2024

Child welfare 2: the welfare of an unborn child is nonsense

Norwegian ethicist says functional parenthood is the main issue

If a child does not exist, what meaning
can its “welfare” have? This is the unsettling question posed by
the Norwegian writer B. Solberg in the Journal of Medical Ethics.
The immediate application is to children born from IVF. Legislation
governing IVF often stipulates that the welfare of the child is
paramount. But this, in Solberg’s view, is nonsense if the child
does not even exist. Certainly children born in the traditional way
may have “interests”, but not ones whom we create. “Potential
children seem to be outside morality,” he says.

The really important people in such
situations are the progenitors. “Assisted reproduction is primarily
about us, actual people in an actual society, and how potential
children may affect us,” he contends. So the proposed criteria is
“whether a certain parental project is meaningful and doable or
whether it is futile”. IVF children for drug addicts is out, but in
for gay couples, saviour siblings, sex selection and so on. The focus
should be on whether creating a child will result in a “functional

What about the morality of cloned or
genetically-enhanced children? The principal argument against cloning
for many bioethicists is that it has not been perfected yet and will
result in defective children. Solberg brushes this issue aside.
Cloning would not make parenthood dysfunctional, and thus it would
not be unethical. The main thing, however, is to jettison the
illogical notion of the welfare of the child and to “focus on what
really matters — our intentions to become functional parents and
the meaning of the parental project.” ~ Journal of Medical Ethics,

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