Thursday, March 27, 2008

Who's in charge here??

What do the mentally retarded, Australian aboriginals, and donor conceived offspring have in common?

All three groups have been the center of social experiments gone wrong by those of higher authority. 

In the United States, Nazi Germany, and several other European countries, governmental programs instituted compulsory sterilization during the first half of the 20th century as a part of a eugenics movement that reduced the reproduction of undesirable genetic traits, most notably mental retardation.  The Nazi’s sterilized some 400,000 people between the 1930s and 40s, while the US sterilized more than 65,000 Americans between 1900 and the 1970s. 

Even today, many parents of mentally retarded children opt to have their child sterilized because they fear, as the child grows older, they do not have the mental capacity to understand the consequences of sex.  I am not going to get into a debate of whether this practice is ethical or not, it is only an example of how a higher authority has made a life-changing decision on a person’s life based solely on what they feel is in that child/adult’s ‘best interests’.  No one ever asks these children what they would want, and many of those who are sterilized have the intelligence to comprehend and thus give informed consent to this invasive and permanent procedure.

The Australian aboriginals, like many other natives during colonization, suffered tremendously during British imperialism.  During the period of 1869 through 1969, aboriginal children were removed from their families by the Australian government and placed in foster care, institutions (as a means of eugenics), while others were adopted by middle-class Caucasian families to be raised essentially as a white child, in hopes to give them a better chance at success in life.  The latter was the government making a decision for that child, supposedly in his or her ‘best interests’, which forcefully removed the child from his or her biological parents (who were not incompetent in raising the child themselves) and placed the child with strangers to be raised in a foreign culture. 

In some instances, such as in Western Australia in 1905, a law was enacted which removed legal guardianship from the aboriginal parents and all children were thus wards of the state and the parents had absolutely no say in what was done to them.  These children were often forced into child labor camps and were essentially slaves of the state. 

These attempts at “resocialization”, which were meant to help aboriginals to adapt to the new modern society, have had vast impacts on those subjected to this program. 

Here is one reflection of one of these stolen generation children as an adult.  “I've got everything that could be reasonably expected: a good home environment, education, stuff like that, but that's all material stuff. It's all the non-material stuff that I didn't have — the know, you've just come out of nowhere; there you are.” (Bringing them Home: The ‘Stolen Children’ report, Human Rights and Equal Opportunity commission, April 2007)

Today, donor offspring are created and based on the infertility industry’s recommendations of what our best interests are, we are denied any right to know one or both of our biological parents indefinitely.  Recipient parents lie to their children about their origins because they feel that what the child doesn’t know cannot hurt him or her, and assume ignorance is bliss.  The government and society accept donor conception as a justified ‘cure’ for infertility and spend little time pondering how this technology impacts those who are most affected.  Everyone gets caught up in women’s rights, gay rights, and spend so much time hashing out if they’re conservative or liberal and why (and why the other is completely wrong and destroying the country…), yet no one looks at the children.

Scientists are attempting to turn stem cells into sperm and egg, as well as artificial gametes (simply because they can and they wish to see if it work…the could should theory is something that I won’t get into, but as a researcher in genetics myself I often wonder what we are potentially doing).  This in turn has raised debate in every facet, except the one that it should. 

We have the gay rights activists thinking that now same-sex couples may be able to procreate together without the use of a donor and have a child biologically related to both of them, and also see it as motivation towards same-sex marriage as they would equally be able to have children just as hetero couples can.  We have the homophobes opposed to this technology because of course they’re opposed to gay rights (and gays in general), and typically fear the legalization of same-sex marriage for whatever religious or moral stance they so choose.  The single women see this advance as the pinnacle of feminism, as they can eliminate any need for the male species – because of course all men are good for is reproduction! 

But has any of these people even once brought up the prospect of the children who could be conceived in such ridiculous and unethical means?!  They are too concerned with whatever THEY WANT and refuse to take a step back and realize we are talking about human beings here.  Not cell cultures, or laboratory mice, or even human embryos, but human beings.  While it might be one thing to take sperm/egg donations from consenting adults and use them to create an other human life, using stem cells from a human embryo to create sperm-like cells and egg-like cells in order to produce a child is out of the question.

Therefore, even if women’s rights and gay rights are trying to achieve equality for these groups, one cannot conclude that this need for equality leads to creating human beings in such a manner.  This begs the question, since nowhere does it state that procreating is even a right that must be upheld by the United States government, let alone a right that has supremacy over another individual’s right to mere human dignity.

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