Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Nice little conversation starter for your next cocktail party or backyard BBQ over at Slate: Incest and Eugenics.

Does science support our laws against incest and cousin marriage? If so, does it also support other laws that would restrict sexual or procreative freedom in the name of genetic health?

Interesting, if short, read. Following their link to more on this matter:

The British Down's Syndrome Association has posted a chart showing the risk of producing a baby with the syndrome at various maternal ages. From age 20 to age 31, the risk doubles. From 31 to 35, it doubles again. From 35 to 38, it doubles again. From 38 to 41, it more than doubles again. Each delay multiplies the risk as much as cousin marriage multiplies the risks of all birth defects combined. By age 45, the probability of Down syndrome alone roughly matches the 4 percent cumulative risk of birth defects from cousin marriage.

You know, I never thought about it that way. Incest may be morally repugnant, but outlawing it for the flawed genetics argument is kind of ridiculous when one takes into consideration the miracles of genetic testing to track if you have a certainty of tragic genetic consequences, as well as the proliferation of older, and thus genetically riskier, motherhood.

And what of restricting procreative freedom in the name of genetic health, AKA eugenics?

Oy vey, no way. I'm waaaaay too tired to go there. Those over-45 moms are vicious!

More seriously though, I will say that while y'all know I'm very pro-choice, funny that on very first thought I am a bit torn when it comes to fetuses that are going to be born and become part of society, and the responsibility a parent has to that child's ultimate well-being.

You know, you need a license to buy a dog, to drive a car - hell, you even need a license to catch a fish. But they'll let any asshole be a father.

Tod, Parenthood

Viscerally though, eugenics is wrong (Remember Gattaca? Before Jude Law was creepy?). But this also comes from a person privileged to live in a society where another mouth to feed doesn't have to be attached to a body that can till a field or walk 5 miles to a well in order for my family to survive, and where people aren't outcasts if they have a child with very severe disabilities.

Also, being pro-choice, I tend to focus on a woman's right to choose to terminate her pregnancy, but I suppose reproductive freedom goes both ways.

We can't stop people from doing what they want to do. We'll tell them what's generally dangerous. And if they can adequately reduce the medical risks, by wearing a condom or taking a genetic test, we'll look the other way.

We humans are flawed, and we have to hope people strive to weigh their options and make the best possible decisions for themselves and their children, throughout life.

So, are y'all still in shock over the woman who gave birth to eight babies the other day? Gah.


Post a Comment

<< Home