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By ‘selective reproduction’ I mean the attempt to create one possible future child rather than another (Wilkinson, 2010). The reason for wanting to practice selective reproduction is usually that one possible future child is, in one way or another, more desirable than the alternatives. The kinds of desirability that people have in mind are many and varied, and the question of what counts as desirable is controversial.

 

There is however one relatively uncontentious example: selection to avoid disease. If one possible future child would have a disabling, excruciating and life-shortening disease, while another would not, then many of us will think that ensuring that the disease-free child is created is the sensible thing to do. Disease-avoidance is the most prevalent and widely accepted rationale for selective repro-duction, at least within ‘Western’ reproductive medicine and biomedical ethics. Recent biotechnological developments (notably, the advent of preimplantation genetic diagnosis, the possibility of determining sex by sperm sorting and the ever increasing sophistication of prenatal tests) have made selective reproduction a pressing issue for regulators, academic bioethicists and the news media.

 

However, selective reproduction need not be ‘high tech’ and has been around in technologically unsophisticated forms for many years. Perhaps the most obvious example of this is using contraception or sexual abstinence to delay conception. For instance, a (bioethically inclined) 15-year-old girl might think to herself.

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