Volume 92, Issue 1, Winter 2018
Gestation Does Not Necessarily Imply Parenthood
Implications for the Morality of Embryo Adoption and Embryo Rescue
This article defends the morality of heterologous embryo transfer (HET) against those who claim that HET is wrong because it makes a woman a mother through someone other than her spouse. I contrast genetic parenthood with gestation to show that gestation alone does not make someone a mother in the focal sense. Genetic parenthood gives rise to the full obligations of parenthood—i.e., makes someone a parent in the focal sense—because the child’s relationship to his genetic parents is (1) permanent, (2) identity-defining, and (3) initially (at conception) the child’s closest human relationship. While the gestational relationship importantly influences the child’s identity, it lacks the unique closeness, permanence, and identity-defining nature that characterize the genetic parent-child relationship, and therefore gives rise only to temporary obligations akin to those of a foster parent. Recognizing these crucial differences between gestation and procreation helps to show that HET is not inherently immoral.