CHILDREN OF CHOICE: Freedom and the New Reproductive Technologies by John A. Robertson (Princeton: $29.95; 277 pp.) Should parents have the right to “control offspring quality” through genetic screening and manipulation? Should frozen embryos be legally protected? In what ways? How would the introduction of RU486, the “abortion pill,” change abortion in America? Bioethicist John Robertson tackles these difficult questions and many more in “Children of Choice,"a comprehensive look at the issues surrounding reproduction in a technological age.
Robertson strongly advocates “procreative liberty,” the belief that people have an inalienable right to procreate or not procreate. “Any restriction, regulation, or imposition of these (reproductive) technologies necessarily interferes with or limits procreative freedom.” The contention that nothing is as important as procreative liberty works both for and against Robertson’s arguments. The sections on non-coital reproduction such as in vitro fertilization and surrogate motherhood are well thought out and presented. However, when he delves into the ethical minefield of genetic enhancement, Robertson is on trickier ground.
Another problematic area is abortion. Again and again, Robertson argues his points on a strictly biological level, making statements like: “Because . . . (RU486) operate(s) so soon after conception, often before pregnancy itself has begun . . . (it has) the potential to defuse some of the heat of the abortion controversy by greatly increasing the number of terminations that occur at or shortly after implantation.” That seems a bit naive. Most people who are against abortion believe it is murder, period, and biology is not an effective tool in what is basically a spiritual debate. Although the lens of procreative liberty is long, narrow and claustrophobic at times, Robertson has still written a flawlessly researched, thoughtful book.