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Student Question

Is it ethical for couples or individuals to use reproductive technologies, given both the option of adoption and the environmental impacts of overpopulation?

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"Reproductive technologies" encompass a wide array of treatments given to couples experiencing fertility struggles, and the ethics of treatment should be considered in terms of particular circumstances.

To cast a wide net on the ethics of reproductive technologies, it might be helpful to ask a few counter questions:

  • Is it ethical to deny couples medical treatment for fertility struggles?
  • Is it ethical to force infertile couples to adopt when there are medical treatments available?
  • Is it ethical to place limitations on who can and cannot reproduce?

It is true that there are children all over the world who are desperately in need of families. Unfortunately, adoptions have become incredibly expensive, and most hopeful parents are forced to raise those funds themselves. A domestic adoption in America can cost around $40,000, and an international adoption will typically cost at least $25,000. Americans can adopt through the foster care system, but this is often a challenging path, as children can be placed back with their birth parents at many different points in their journey.

By contrast, intrauterine insemination (which is typically a first step for many infertile couples) may only cost around $300 to $1000, and medical insurance may help out with those costs. Couples who turn to in vitro fertilization often spend approximately $11,000 per cycle, but insurance may again help cover many of those costs.

For many American couples, reproductive technology is simply a much more economical path to becoming parents. Perhaps another question that should be asked here is whether it is ethical for adoptions to cost an exorbitant amount of money, as this prohibits many hopeful parents from pursuing this option.

It doesn't seem ethical to place limitations on who can and cannot become parents when medical treatments are available, so I would argue that reproductive technologies should be considered medical tools. It is possible to make intentionally ethical choices about the types of technologies used based on a particular couple's (or even a single woman's) individual circumstances.

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