Should Deaf Parents Be Able to 'Choose' Deaf Children?

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In a thoughtful blog post on Meteuphoric, Katja Grace meditates on whether deaf parents who want deaf children should legally be able to use medical techniques to ensure that their kids will be hearing-impaired. The issue is more than just hypothetical: it caused a firestorm of controversy two years ago when a British couple entered into a prolonged legal battle with the parliament in order to win the right to choose deafness for their newborn.

While the deaf "reproductive libertarians" eventually lost, the issue has continued to simmer with advocates arguing that having a deaf child means that he or she can share in their parents' culture (namely, through sign language). Grace, however, doesn't agree with this perspective:

I think the children are almost certainly worse off if they are chosen to be deaf. The deaf community is unlikely to be better than any of the millions of other communities in the world which are based mainly on spoken language, so the children are worse off even culture-wise before you look at other costs. I don’t follow why the children can’t be brought up in the deaf community without actually being deaf either. However I don’t think choosing deaf children should be illegal, since parents are under no obligation to have children at all and deaf children are doing a whole lot better than non-existent children.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.