Reproductive Rights without Resources or Recourse

Hastings Center Report 47 (s3):S12-S18 (2017)
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Abstract

The U.S. Supreme Court declared procreation to be a fundamental right in the early twentieth century in a case involving Oklahoma's Habitual Criminal Sterilization Act, an act that permitted unconsented sterilization of individuals convicted of certain crimes. The right that the Court articulated in that case is a negative right: it requires that the government not place unjustified roadblocks in the way of people seeking to procreate, but it does not require the government to take positive steps to help people procreate if they wish to. I argue that a positive legal right is morally necessary in the United States, given the profound significance of procreation, the current barriers to access to care, and the related issues of individual and societal justice. I assume at the outset that the right to procreate should be expansive enough to include a right to noncoital reproduction. The absence of a positive right to procreate reflects not just constitutional tradition but also a governmental and societal commitment to a longstanding set of reproductive hierarchies by which those who fall outside of the traditional framing of family too frequently find their procreative dreams hindered. Reconceiving procreative rights to include a positive right would create greater opportunities to argue and lobby for increased access to technologies that are out of reach for many.

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