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Why Have Children?

by Christine Overall

In contemporary Western society, people are more often called upon to justify the choice not to have children than they are to supply reasons for having them. In this book, Christine Overall maintains that the burden of proof should be reversed: that the choice to have children calls for more careful justification and reasoning than the choice not to. Arguing that the choice to have children is not just a prudential or pragmatic decision but one with ethical repercussions, Overall offers a wide-ranging exploration of how we might think systematically and deeply about this fundamental aspect of human life. Writing from a feminist perspective, she also acknowledges the inevitably gendered nature of the decision; although both men and women must ponder the issue, the choice has different meanings, implications, and risks for women than it has for men. Overall considers a series of ethical perspectives on procreation, examining approaches that rely on reproductive rights; on fundamental religious, family, or political values; and on the anticipated consequences of the decision for both individuals and society. She examines some of the broader issues relevant to the decision, including population growth, resource depletion, and social policies governing reproduction. Finding the usual approaches to the question inadequate or incomplete, she offers instead a novel argument. Exploring the nature of the biological parent-child relationship--which is not only genetic but also psychological, physical, intellectual, and moral--she argues that the formation of that relationship is the best possible reason for choosing to have a child.

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