To Will Saletan, regarding Incest

While I am at it, here are two comments I left at Will Saletan's Slate article on why incest is wrong. He seems to think that we have to identify the single reason that can make incest wrong which doesn't apply to homosexuality. I disagreed with that requirement, and asked him to address procreation rights of fathers and daughters:

John Howard
Hey Will, can you do an article on the procreation rights of fathers and daughters, as opposed to the naked/orgasm/screwing rights? (Well, perhaps you could look at those three separately too, since they are rather different.) For instance, would it be a crime for a daughter to impregnate herself with a vial of her father's sperm? Is it something we have to allow a father and daughter to do, if they wants to?

And, how about the marriage rights of fathers and daughters? I think that the procreation rights and marriage rights of fathers and daughters are synonymous. Indeed the Massachusetts Incest law has one paragraph describing the crime and punishment that applies interchangeably to either sexual intercourse or marriage (which of course would have to have been an unlicensed illegal marriage, since such a marriage is also prohibited by the marriage statutes). Interesting how that shows marriage means having sexual intercourse as far as the public understanding of marriage goes. It also means having children together.
Today, 00:14:47

John Howard
How come there can't be multiple reasons that, taken as a whole, call for incest to be illegal and wrong? Not everyone agrees that procreation is not an issue between fathers and daughters, that's pretty ballsy to just say that unethical procreation is not an issue because now we have contraception. As if that somehow makes it impossible for a father to impregnate his daughter! Or a brother to impregnate a sister, or aunt, etc... There are also other reasons to criminalize bodily union between relatives, as well as to not allow marriage between them. (And there are reasons why affinity relationships that are prohibited from marrying are not criminalized and punished the same as consanguineous relationships are.)

The "family unit" reason is a reasonable reason too, as is the "impossible consent due to grooming" reasons. Not everyone has to agree on the reason they think incest should be a crime and is wrong, there just have to be enough people that agree it should be a crime to say it should be a crime. They don't have to all agree as to what is "the" reason that holds true in every case and is logically consistent with marriage or gay rights or feminism or whatever, they can just feel there might be good reasons to prudently prohibit it.
Yesterday, 23:57:39

Response to Kenji Yoshino

Kenji Yoshino does the usual takedown of Robert George's article, because Robert George avoided the issues of procreation rights and same-sex procreation and so walked right into it. Because my comments often get deleted from Slate, here is my comment to Yoshino's latest response:

Marriage is approval to procreate offspring together, using the marriage's own genes. It is not given to siblings and other couples that are not allowed to procreate offspring together. It is given to couples that are approved and allowed to procreate, whether they wind up procreating or not.

Using the baseball analogy, a team is approved and allowed to win the game, no baseball team is prohibited by rule from possibly winning a game. That approval is why losing teams are not demeaned, they still have the dignity of being allowed to try to win games, and if they managed to, everyone would celebrate their good fortune and the rightness of them winning a game.

Same-sex couples, unlike infertile couples, should not be approved or allowed to procreate offspring together. Even if technology could be used to facilitate it, perhaps using stem cell derived gametes, or perhaps computer sequencing and DNA synthesis, using such methods to create a human being should not be allowed. The only way that people should be allowed to be made is by joining the egg of a woman and the sperm of a man. That is the only ethical way for people to be created, all other attempts would demean equality and dignity and turn procreation into a form of manufacture and deny the child their right to exist as a equal human being, as an equal member of the species. It is terrible public policy for same-sex procreation to be legal, it confuses children who think it might be an option for them someday, and it wastes tons of energy and money on research. Plus, it might actually lead to children being made, which puts the child at enormous risk of birth defects and requires that the child be monitored and studied for its whole life, and its children too, and that would require a huge government regulatory agency which would be unsustainable and expensive, and if it became entrenched, would wind up limiting everyone's freedom to have children naturally and force people to be screened and modified.

Civil Unions should be defined as "marriage minus conception rights" so that they can be enacted in all 50 states and federally recognized immediately, to give same-sex couples all the other benefits and incidents and obligations of marriage, without allowing same-sex procreation, or stripping procreation rights from everyone's marriage. Marriage should continue to approve and affirm the couple's right to procreate offspring using their own genes. People should only have that right with someone of the other sex.

Letter to Robert George on 'What Is Marriage?'

Dear Robert George, Sherif Girgis, and Ryan T. Anderson,

Congratulations on publishing a fine paper. I was however disappointed that your paper did not address the possibility of same-sex couples being able to procreate together using stem cell derived gametes or other methods. That possibility renders many of your arguments moot, or even worse, turns them into arguments for same-sex marriage.

Have you heard of this research, or of Postgenderism, or Transhumanism?

I think we need to make sure marriage continues to mean that the couple is approved and allowed to conceive offspring together from their own genes. In other words, the answer to "what is marriage?" should be "conception rights." And same-sex couples should be like siblings: denied conception rights, even though it might be possible for them to conceive, because it would be unethical.

This explains why infertile and elderly people are allowed to marry: they still retain their right to procreate, it is not illegal for them to procreate.

Is that not a good argument? Is there some danger or downside to making that argument? I think it is profoundly important to protect everyone's right to procreate with their own genes, with their spouse's own genes, and to stop genetic engineering. I think it would be a popular mainstream position, especially when combined with a Civil Union compromise.

Please let me know what you think of my proposed Egg and Sperm Civil Union Compromise. It's three federal laws, to be enacted as a package:

1) Stop genetic engineering by limiting conception of children to the
union of a man and a woman's sperm and egg.
2) Federally recognize state civil unions that are defined as "marriage minus conception rights."
3) Affirm in federal law the right of all marriages to conceive children together using their own genes.

John Howard


Why is NOMBlog opposed to a law?

I've been trying to figure out why some of my comments make it through the NOMBlog moderator while others get blocked. I think they don't like it when I point out that we should prohibit same-sex procreation. Here is my latest comment of mine that didn't make it, retrieved with the back button and reposted:
John Howard
Posted December 23, 2010 at 2:51 pm | Permalink
Your comment is awaiting moderation.

@Mike Brooks - Same-sex couples might be able to procreate using stem cell derived artificial gametes. Researchers have already made mice from same-sex "parents", using ridiculously complex processes involving lots of genetically modified mice and experimenting. But the point is, whether it is possible or not, doesn't mean we have to let them try it. We don't have to allow same-sex couples to try to make offspring, we can say people don't have a right to reproduce with someone of the same sex. Congress should prohibit it, like Missouri has done.


Researchers Create Mice From Two Fathers

They had to jump through some crazy hoops, so this isn't the big news that Postgenderists have been dreaming of, but the headline sure makes it seem like same-sex procreation is a real possibility. Wall Street Journal Online reports:
Scientists have created mice that are the genetic product of two fathers, the latest in a series of unusual experiments in mammalian reproduction.

Researchers at University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center and elsewhere first engineered a female mouse whose eggs contained the DNA from a male. When the female was mated with another male, the offspring had genetic contributions entirely from two males. The study appears online in the peer-reviewed journal Biology of Reproduction.

While the achievement is technically intriguing, its practical benefits are far from clear. Any move to try the same experiment in people is certain to be more complicated and controversial.

The study describes the technique as "a new form of mammalian reproduction" that could potentially be used to improve livestock breeds or preserve endangered species. More provocatively, the authors argue that if certain technical hurdles can be overcome, "then some day two men could produce their own genetic sons and daughters." But those technical hurdles are extremely high.

"It has been a weird project, but we wanted to see if it could be done" in mice, says Richard Behringer, lead author of the study and a developmental geneticist at M.D. Anderson in Houston.
Not only is this kind of research a terrible use of resources, it sends a very confusing message to people, especially children, about their reproductive potential. We should make it clear that same-sex procreation is never going to be a possibilty, because it will always be unethical and wasteful and damaging to our natural procreation rights. Prohibiting same-sex procreation also makes it possible to resolve the marriage debate, by creating a difference in rights between marriage and civil unions, so that civil unions could be enacted in all 50 states and federally recognized as if marriages. That would help same-sex couples much more than holding out hope for radical technology to enable same-sex procreation.


Illinois should enact Recognition-Ready Civil Unions

Illinois looks like they are about to pass one of those unconstitutional, unpopular, stepping-stone, marriage-in-all-but-name Civil Union laws. Though the language of their bill doesn't say that Civil Unions have all the "rights" of marriage, it does say that Civil Unions would offer the same "protections." One of the protections of marriage is of the right to procreate offspring together, marriage protects the couple's right to use their own genes to procreate offspring.

To make Civil Unions constitutional, they have to explicitly have different rights to justify having a different name. The right they should be missing is the right to conceive offspring together, which is also the essential, definitive right of marriage.

People should not have an equal right to procreate with someone of either sex, people should only be allowed to procreate with someone of the other sex. Attempting same-sex procreation requires genetic engineering to make artificial gametes from stem cells and would be unsafe, expensive, require big government regulation and research, and open the door to all forms of genetic engineering. It needs to be prohibited with a federal ban on making human beings by any method other than joining the sperm of a man and the egg of a woman.

At the same time, Congress should also federally recognize state Civil Unions that are defined as "marriage minus conception rights." Illinois should modify their proposed Civil Union bill in the Senate to add a clause explicitly stating that they do not protect the right to conceive offspring, so that they would be federally recognized immediately as soon as Congress enacts the Egg and Sperm Civil Union Compromise.


Stripping procreation rights from marriage is an old idea

Allow me to relate some interesting quotes from eugenicists I found in "Eugenics and Other Evils" by GK Chesterton. These quotes were included in Chesterton's essay by the editor of this volume to give some context, so modern readers can understand just who Chesterton is responding to.

Banning Marriage
Special provisions as to which it might be open to question whether they were primarily in the interest of the individual have been omitted, as for example Clause 50 in the earlier Bill, which prohibited marriage with a defective. There is, however, an amendment proposed to reinstate this clause in Committee, but the matter has not yet been reached. - EUGENICS REVIEW, 1913

Marriage without Parenthood
It is to parenthood on the part of the transmissibly unworthy that we object. Negative eugenics has no right to object to their living or to their marrying. This must be insisted upon. Hitherto marriage and parenthood have been regarded as synonymous or equivalent by writers on eugenics, and they have said that such and such persons must not marry, when what they meant was that these persons must not become parents. - C.W. SALEEBY, 1914
Saleeby was unsuccessful in stripping procreation rights from marriage, but the idea did not die, Margaret Sanger proposed exactly what Saleeby was talking about twenty years later, when she urged an "American Baby Code" in American Weekly Magazine in 1934:
American Baby Code
Article 1. The purpose of the American Baby Code should be to provide for a better distribution of babies. to assist couples who wish to prevent overproduction of offspring and thus to reduce the burden of charity and taxation for public relief and to protect society against the propagation and increase of the unfit.

Article 2. Birth control clinics shall be permitted to function as services of government health departments or under the support of charity, or as nonprofit, self-sustaining agencies subject to inspection and control by public authorities.

Article 3. A marriage license shall in itself give husband and wife only the right to a common household and not the right to parenthood.

Article 4. No woman shall have the legal right to bear a child, no man shall have the right to become a father, without a permit for parenthood.

Article 5. Permits for parenthood shall be issued by government authorities to married couples upon application, providing the parents are financially able to support the expected child, have the qualifications needed for proper rearing of the child, have no transmissible diseases, and on the woman's part no indication that maternity is likely to result in death or permanent injury to health.

Article 6. No permit for parenthood shall be valid for more than one birth.

Article 7. Every county shall be assisted administratively by the state in the effort to maintain a direct ratio between the county birth rate and its index of child welfare. When the county records show an unfavorable variation from this ratio the county shall be taxed by the State.... The revenues thus obtained shall be expended by the State within the given county in giving financial support to birth control....

Article 8. Feeble-minded persons, habitual congenital criminals, those afflicted with inheritable diseases, and others found biologically unfit should be sterilized or in cases of doubt should be isolated as to prevent the perpetuation of their afflictions by breeding.

Eugenics was forced to become "crypto-eugenics" due to the Nazis getting a little impatient with it and applying it to living people rather than yet-to-be-conceived people, but the idea of stripping procreation rights from marriage and having separate "parenting licenses" did not die, and now in the age of genetic engineering it has found a new strategy of redefining marriage to not include a procreation right by declaring same-sex couples to have equal marriage rights.

It is as important as ever to oppose eugenics and defend everyone's equal procreation rights, and to not allow procreation rights to be stripped from marriage. All marriages should be allowed to procreate with their own genes, and all people should have an equal right to marry. We should not ban people from marrying for eugenic purposes as the Eugenics Review advocated in 1913, nor strip procreation rights from marriage as Dr. Saleeby proposed in 1914 and Sanger echoed in 1934.


Mandated coverage for Transgender surgery?

Interesting article on HuffingtonPost Transgender Surgery is Deductible; Medical Coverage Coming reporting on yesterday's ruling by the US Tax Court that sex reassignment surgery is not cosmetic and therefore is a deductible medical expense.

The suit was brought by GLAD, and they are not finished. As the article points out, the goal is to have transgender surgery covered by medical insurance, mandated like IVF is mandated in Massachusetts. And if surgery to make the body look like the other sex is mandated, of course the genetic engineering to enable the person to procreate as the other sex will be also.