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Posted on February 19, 2004. Filed under: Uncategorized |

Philosophy Now: “Now consider whether there exists a ‘right’ of reproductive choice – and for the moment, let’s concern ourselves not with the contentious question of abortion but with the largely settled question of procreation. Imagine the case of a mentally retarded couple who want a child. In the first half of the last century, this issue was far from settled; 24 states, between 1911 and 1930, enacted sterilization laws aimed at the mentally retarded. The Supreme Court itself upheld the constitutionality of such laws in 1927 – a decision featuring Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes’s now infamous remark: ‘Three generations of imbeciles are enough.’
From a utilitarian view, which prioritizes the collective weal, it’s bad for a mentally retarded couple to procreate. It’s indisputable that their offspring are more likely to be mentally retarded than the offspring of a couple in which neither parent is retarded, or in which only one parent is; it’s also indisputable that a mentally retarded child is more likely to require public assistance. How, then, does the private interest of the mentally retarded couple trump the collective interest? Whence, given the likelihood of a burdensome outcome, a mentally retarded couple’s right to procreation?
The answer returns us to the second level of the abortion debate, to the theory of natural law and unalienable rights. The equality of persons before the law derives not from a measurable equality, such as I.Q.. That equality plainly doesn’t exist. Rather, equality before the law derives from a immeasurable equality – namely, God’s endowment of a soul. Though the collective weal might be served by social programs that pre-sorted individuals according to their unequal endowments, that channeled only the intellectually promising towards higher education and only the physically gifted towards “

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