DEAF parents should be allowed to screen their embryos so they can pick a deaf child over one that has all its senses intact, according to the chief executive of the Royal National Institute for Deaf and Hard of Hearing People (RNID).
Jackie Ballard, a former Liberal Democrat MP, says that although the vast majority of deaf parents would want a child who has normal hearing, a small minority of couples would prefer to create a child who is effectively disabled, to fit in better with the family lifestyle.
Ballard’s stance is likely to be welcomed by other deaf organisations, including the British Deaf Association (BDA), which is campaigning to amend government legislation to allow the creation of babies with disabilities.
A clause in the Human Tissue and Embryos Bill, which is passing through the House of Lords, would make it illegal for parents undergoing embryo screening to choose an embryo with an abnormality if healthy embryos exist.
To fit in better with the family lifestyle. The similarity to permitting parents to surgically alter the healthy genitals of their male children for any or no reason is exact. Harming the child – and cutting off healthy bits of his genitals or deliberately selecting an embryo because she will be deaf is harm – so that he or she meets the parents’ expectations of valid physical characteristics is immoral. It should not be allowed.
As Mr. van Bakel wrote¹:
For about two seconds, I tried to apply some libertarian gloss to the situation — parents making up their own minds about their offspring, how bad can that be? — but it just wouldn’t stick. Um, what about the right of the child to be normal (no, that’s not a pejorative word) and healthy?
Indeed. In a world of individual rights, the child matters first and only.
These people are truly a bunch of, hell I’ll say it, immoral imbeciles. They want a child with a deliberately-bred disability because junior would “fit in better with the family lifestyle”? Great. It follows … that we should defer to legless parents who decide to have their obstetrician snip a couple of limbs off the foetus.
As one commenter at Nobody’s Business noted, we already (irrationally) defer to parents who decide to have their doctor² snip the healthy foreskin off their newborn son. There is an obscene, ongoing precedent for such abomination.
More from the article:
Ballard, …, said in an interview with The Sunday Times: “Most parents would choose to have a hearing embryo, but for those few parents who do not, we think they should be allowed to exercise that choice and we would support them in that decision.
Manipulating a child’s healthy body to meet parental whims, before or after birth, is not a valid choice. Just as a child’s natural difference is not a repudiation of the parents’ validity, similarities do not confirm that all is perfect. This is especially true when the similarities are imposed.
¹ I particularly like his explanation that normal is not a pejorative. To extend that idea to my topic, in America the intact penis is normal but uncommon. The circumcised penis is common, but it is not normal.
² The willingness of doctors to engage in such clearly unethical behavior must not be ignored.