Rethinking reproductive restrictions

Paul Raven @ 21-10-2010

We mentioned this little lot in passing back in April, but given that they’re cropping up in UK headlines again (and that their modus operandi connects to last week’s discussion of reproductive licensing), I thought it worth mentioning again. I refer, of course, to Project Prevention, a US-based charity now operating in the UK whose ‘work’ involves offering drug addicts and other members of “the undeserving poor” £200 in cash in exchange for undergoing voluntary sterilisation.

I mention it primarily because it makes me think again about my position with regards to reproductive licensing; after all, is it not inconsistent of me to approve of reproductive licensing, if only as a principle with no obvious fair and corruption-proof method of implementation, but to be genuinely horrified by the crudely manipulative way that Project Prevention are approaching the same basic idea? It occurs to me that Project Prevention’s founders and staff probably believe quite earnestly that they’re working toward a social good, namely preventing the birth of children to parents unfit to care for them… but for them, that’s justification for a methodology that I find instantly appalling.

In other words, I’d like to say to Silvia and the other commenters on my post from last week: I think you were right. There may well be a logical core to the idea of restricting reproductive rights, but like many logical ideals, it can’t be brought into the messy sphere of human life without turning into a value judgement that no one has the right to make over someone else. A better – if admittedly harder – solution would be to work towards a society where the root causes of bad parenting are eradicated, rather than bad parents themselves; a utopian dream, perhaps, but a far more humanist one.


Behavioural bribery: the sublime and the scary

Paul Raven @ 12-04-2010

Compare and contrast:

TIME reports on the research of a Harvard economist that strongly suggests financial reward structures are a highly effective way of motivating academic performance and/or good behaviour in school-aged children. (We mentioned this last year, as it happens.)

Meanwhile, did you know there’s a “charitable” organisation in the US that offers drug addicts a cash incentive to apply for sterilisation – not of their needles, but of themselves? [via Lauren Beukes] And they’re coming to the UK, too, which is a relief – I was thinking only the other day that we just don’t have enough heavy-handed moralising in this country.