Ethical Theory and Moral Practice 17 (3):583-585 (2014)

David Benatar
University of Cape Town
The prevailing view about procreation, Christine Overall observes, is that “having children is the default position; not having children is what requires explanation and justification” (p. 3). These assumptions, she says, “are the opposite of what they ought to be” and that the “burden of proof … should rest primarily on those who choose to have children” (ibid). The ostensible goal of Why Have Children? is to discuss when this burden is and is not met.Professor Overall’s conclusions are much less radical than one would expect from somebody reversing the ordinary assumptions about procreation. Indeed, her conclusions about procreation are remarkably permissive.She begins her argument with a discussion (in Chapter 2) of reproductive rights, which she says are necessary but not sufficient for evaluating reproductive decisions (p. 21). Her focus is on moral rather than legal rights, and she distinguishes between a right to reproduce—in both a positive and a negative sense—from a right not
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DOI 10.1007/s10677-013-9477-5
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