The Ethics of Procreation and Adoption

Paper by Tina Rulli, published on June 6, 2016 in Philosophy Compass

It is widely assumed that people have a moral right to procreate. This article explores recent arguments in opposition to procreation in some or all contexts. Some such views are concerned with the risks and harms of life that procreation imposes on non-consenting children. Others articulate concerns for third parties – the environmental damage or opportunity costs that procreation poses to already existing people. The article then surveys arguments that favor procreation despite the risks to the children created and third parties. The best argument for procreation is based on the significant interest people have in forming the parent–child relationship. An important under-discussed middle ground is suggested – one that avoids the criticisms of the anti-natalist while fulfilling the best aims of procreation – viz. adoption. The duty to adopt is summarized and objections to it considered. Thoughtful people who deeply desire to become parents but do not wish to participate in the range of potential procreative harms should consider adoption as a first choice.