Sunday, January 25, 2009
Student Scholarship: Modern Genetic Testing
Dov Fox (Yale Law School) has posted Reproduction Law in International Perspectives on SSRN. Here is the abstract:
The word "eugenics" derives from the Greek words eu (good) and gen (relating to birth), or eugenes, which means "good in birth." In Heredity and Hope, sociologist and historian Ruth Schwartz Cowan defends modern genetic testing - the new genetics - by distinguishing it from twentieth century eugenics - the old genetics. Examining the history of carrier screening and prenatal diagnosis, Cowen suggests that we are right to recoil from the old genetics, with its coercive methods and hateful motives, but affirms that we should embrace a new genetics, which enables parental autonomy and promotes offspring well-being. I call Cowen's defense of the new genetics into question by challenging the disanalogy she draws between the old genetics and the new genetics. Drawing on contemporary case studies of reproduction law in Israel, Cyprus, Taiwan, China, Singapore, and the United States, I try to show that the new genetics is similar, in important and objectionable respects, to the old genetics. The argument proceeds in three parts. Part I unpacks the moral goods of parental autonomy and offspring well-being that Cowan locates in the new eugenics. Part II unravels the disanalogy between the old genetics and the new genetics by demonstrating their shared biological approach as a solution to social ills. Part III argues that the new genetics threatens to undermine social equality for people with disabilities.