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Our panel of 82 professional philosophers has responded to

Question of the day

There are a number of reasons for the asymmetry for the difference in the way biological and adoptive parents are treated. The first is privacy. The second is liberty. The decision to reproduce and the process of reproduction are among the most personal, intimate, and emotionally profound in human life, and they involve one's own body. For the state or institutions to intrude into that process would entail compromising the most private dimensions of our lives and bodies and interferring with people's liberty in substantial ways, and people find that intolerable, especially given the epistemic problems in determining who is and is not fit to parent. The question of whether people are fit to parent can be handled once children are born. Scrutinizing prospective parents through adoption requires no iintrusion into the private matter of biological reproduction or positive comprimising of the liberty of people. Of course, the state and the community do have an interest in new members of the community being well raised, but many of those concerns can b addressed through providng sufficient schools, parks, social workers, jobs, security, health care, etcs. That is the interests of the community seem adequately served through alternatives to violations of privacy and liberty. There are, of course, difficult cases: prisoners, those with criminal histories and histories of profound mental illness or other health concerns. There is also the issue of enforcement. Consider a woman who is not licensed to reproduce but becomes pregnant anyway. What is to be done with her? A forced abortion? Liberty and privacy concerns rebuke that idea. Fines? That may end up harming the child by depriving its parent of resources needed to raise it well. Seizing the child and transferring it to another couple for adoption? Besides the liberty and privacy issues, most would, I think, find that punishment disporportionately punitive.