Reproductive Technologies: Does Choice Mean Freedom?
By David Kinlough
“One does not, it might be said, increase a person’s freedom simply by
increasing the sheer quantity of possibilities which he or she can choose from.”
n Richard Norman
The issue of reproductive technologies in our society today raises an
interesting question. Do they increase a women’s freedom of choice or do they
expand the power of men and science over women. Is freedom to choose what they
can do with their bodies truly freedom. Freedom, as a core, is the absence of
external impediment. In this sort of area can women truly be free of external
impediment, also is this truly freedom of choice? “The range of physical
possibilities from which a person can choose at a given moment has no direct
relevance to freedomWhether a person is free or not does not depend on the
range of choice.” (Haylek 1960, p.12f). This subject is so socially charged
that a women could not possibly have true freedom of choice but a choice which
is basically decided for her, whether it be by the limited choices made
available to her by medical science or by the men which are directly involved
with them in the decision.
In order to truly understand this issue we must look at it’s core,
reproductive technology. This is a vast area to discuss because it ranges from
artificial insemination to abortion to contraception to genetic engineering with
many area in between.
Artificial insemination is the introduction of sperm to an ovum
artificially either inside or outside the female genital tract. Abortion is the
“extermination of pregnancy before the fetus is capable of independent life.”
Birth control is a huge area of reproductive or contraceptive technology, in
effect though all sub areas of this main area deal with the prevention of
fertilization of the ovum or egg, also in some cases such as the condom it can
stop the spread of disease. Genetic engineering is a new and extremely scary
technology which hopes to enable the precise engineering of an unborn child.
The previous examples are just some of the areas of reproductive
technologies but they are sufficient to cover the basic scope of the issue.
What is freedom. In the Webster’s dictionary the definition is “The
state of being free or at liberty rather than in confinement or under physical
restraint”. This is the core of freedom but to truly understand freedom one
must define it with much more detail. two people who have concentrated their
efforts on the subject of freedom are Norman and Haylek. Norman feels that
freedom is equated to the absence of social pressure yet the possession of
social and political power and wealth. Haylek’s version is much simpler, he
believes that freedom is “The absence of external impediment” (Haylek 1960, p17).
Unfortunately Haylek is to general in his claims for this subject so Norman’s
definition will be our focus.
Is it truly freedom of choice when a the decision is morally effected.
No it is not, as Norman said, freedom is the absence of social pressure. One
can read a newspaper everyday and see an article discussing a mob of pro-life
activists barricading an abortion clinic or reading an editorial surrounding the
moral dilemma of genetic engineering, in fact this subject is one of the most
socially charged. With so many groups hammering their ideals at you, a truly
“free” choice cannot be made.
Almost the only area of reproductive technologies which could be seen as
a freedom to women is the area of artificial insemination. In this choice there
is no real moral issue, it is the creation of life therefore society condones it,
and her decision will not be influenced by social pressure. In fact this area
can help a women give birth to a child who previously could not, and out of all
the decisions in the area of reproductive technologies it is the one least
influenced by men. A man can wish his “wife” would have a child but if she is
unable to naturally conceive, it is her decision to be impregnated using this
technology. In other words this area of reproductive technologies is the most
socially neutral, the influence of a man in her life (if any) can be a strong
one and therefore can effect the freedom the women can exercise in this choice.
Abortion is not a freedom to women when applying Norman’s version of
freedom. It is the most socially fueled area of this technology and