The Unique Value of Adoption

In Francoise Baylis & Carolyn McLeod (eds.), Family-Making: Contemporary Ethical Challenges. Oxford University Press (2014)
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Most people would agree that adoption is a good thing for children in need of a family. Yet adoption is often considered a second best or even last resort for parents in making their families. Against this assumption, I explore the unique value of adoption for prospective parents. I begin with a criticism of the selective focus on the value of adoption for only those people using assisted reproductive technologies. I focus on the value of adoption for all prospective parents, reflecting on non-relative, non-procreative adoptions. First, adoption can meet the important need that a child has for a family, whereas procreation creates rather than meets needs. Second, adoption provides a morally noble opportunity to extend to a stranger benefits usually withheld for one's genetic kin. As such, adoption offers a unique possibility in which impartial concern for an other can be the starting point for a lifetime of love and care. Finally, adoptions can have transformative power over adoptive parents’ conception of family and self. In highlighting the unique value of adoption, I aim to challenge the widespread assumption that adoption has second best status to procreation. Indeed adoption can exemplify the human potential for moral compassion and impartial concern for the needs of others.



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Tina Rulli
University of California, Davis

Citations of this work

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Abortion and the golden rule.R. M. Hare - 1975 - Philosophy and Public Affairs 4 (3):201-222.
Is There a Moral Obligation to Have Children?Saul Smilansky - 1995 - Journal of Applied Philosophy 12 (1):41-53.

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