So one of the advantages of flying home for Easter is, of course, my mom’s roasted leg of lamb and wicked good cheesecake. Another is being able to read interesting things from The Washington Post, which is happily delivered to my parents’ door every morning.
The Post’s magazine this week featured an article that explored one couple’s attempt, and the morality of that attempt, to have a child against remarkable odds. The couple is a lesbian couple living in the suburbs of Washington D.C. But that was not what the article was about.
Besides being set apart from society because of their sexuality, both women are deaf. And in their endeavors to have a child through the process of in vitro fertilization, both have one goal in mind: they both want to have a child who is just like them. They both want a child who is deaf.
The couple see themselves as part of a community, not as victims of deafness. The deaf community to which they belong has a vibrant identity, united by the communicative tool of American Sign Language, and not at all concerned that they are not a part of the hearing world.
And the two see themselves as wanting to raise a child who reflects their identity, the same way a black family, if adopting or through a means of reproductive technology, might want a black child. In the minds of this couple, by getting a deaf sperm donor for the fertilization process (in this case, a friend of theirs), they ensured that their son, Gauvin, born this past Thanksgiving, would have the best shot at being a viable member of their community.
I’m all for fitting in with my parents. But that’s basically because I always felt safe with my parents. Because I always knew they had my best interests in mind. They never intentionally chose a life of hardship for me.
Life is hard enough without having to grapple with a disability. And those people in my life who have to deal with the disabilities they possess have done so with exceptional grace and flair. But I am certain that if they could have chosen, they would not have chosen a life that is harder than most.
The couple says things that just seem bizarre, like, “A hearing baby would be a blessing. A deaf baby would be a special blessing.” And, “I would say that we wanted to increase our chances of having a baby who is deaf.”
Why would any family, regardless of the community in which they find themselves, actively seek a life of disability for their child? Inherently, this is the type of horror story that opponents of genetically-engineered artificial reproduction are trying to avoid. In general, most people want the best for their child, and if given the possibility of choosing the traits they want for their child, will choose to weed out those which may cause hardship.
In this case, the couple wantonly sought out a path that will increase the chances of hardship on their son in the name of “increasing community,” choices that are at best heinously selfish and, at worst, are incredibly immoral.
This couple could have sought out a donor with normal hearing, hoping to give their son a shot at life in the hearing world. Instead, they chose what feels good for them, a trend that has been increasing in popularity in our culture for the past five hundred years.
Gauvin recently had a preliminary hearing test and was diagnosed with profound hearing loss.
His parents couldn’t be more proud.
Sarah Laribee is a second bachelor’s student in English Education.