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Tuesday, October 14, 2014

A New Way to Save the Environment: Take Away Government and Insurance Support for Fertility Medicine for Lesbians and Gay Men



In a summer 2014 article in the Journal of Medical Ethics, Cristina Richie proposes to limit human population growth by putting an obstacle in the way of population increase. Richie proposes that governments withdraw all financial subsidy for assisted reproductive treatments for fertile people and that insurers do the same.  That money could only go to people with diseases and disorders that stand in the way of their having babies.

Richie's reasoning is that financial support for fertile people will slow down population growth, but those people can – if they really want to – have children anyway. They can just turn to old-fashioned intercourse, and that doesn’t demand much by way of environmental resources now, does it? 

Richie’s proposal won’t meaningfully slow the demand on environmental resources or contain the problem of carbon emissions because the number of people born through the assistance of fertility medicine is an almost meaningless fraction of the number of new people coming along.

Richie's proposal also has a differential effect on lesbians and gay men, and it is a prejudicial effect.

Same-sex couples must always reach outside their relationship for help in having children. But Richie wants to turn off any financial assistance they might get from the government or insurers for clinical help. Her reasoning is that lesbians and gay men are after all fertile. They’re not infertile like, say, people who have blocked fallopian tubes or who have low sperm production.  There is nothing wrong with their bodies that way (usually). But -- too bad! -- they're fertile, so they are on their own when it comes to paying for clinical help in having children.

Never mind that lesbians and gay men pay the taxes which support fertility medicine for others. Never mind that lesbians and gay men also create profitability for their employers, the employers that Richie hopes will exclude them from the health insurance they provide.

People used to argue that lesbians and gay men shouldn’t have children because their sexuality and relationships are bad for children. Now, Richie wants to put up obstacle in the way of lesbians and gay men having children for a whole new reason: saving the environment!  

I suppose it’s too much to hope that she retracts the article.

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