People who want to adopt children typically must demonstrate that they would be good parents (they must be financially stable, reasonably healthy, law-abiding, and so on). This is often a very difficult process, as prospective parents are placed under intense scrutiny; and many couples who would likely make fine parents are denied. What reason is there to regulate adoption in this way that would not apply to parenthood in general? I think most of us agree that it is a good thing that not just anyone can adopt. But why should having one's own biological children by any different? I am normally repulsed by the claim that only certain people should be allowed to breed. However, I don't see what would justify applying such demanding standards to adoptive parents but not biological ones.

There are a number of reasons for the asymmetry for the difference in the way biological and adoptive parents are treated. The first is privacy. The second is liberty. The decision to reproduce and the process of reproduction are among the most personal, intimate, and emotionally profound in human life, and they involve one's own body. For the state or institutions to intrude into that process would entail compromising the most private dimensions of our lives and bodies and interferring with people's liberty in substantial ways, and people find that intolerable, especially given the epistemic problems in determining who is and is not fit to parent. The question of whether people are fit to parent can be handled once children are born. Scrutinizing prospective parents through adoption requires no iintrusion into the private matter of biological reproduction or positive comprimising of the liberty of people. Of course, the state and the community do have an interest in new members of the community being well raised, but many of those concerns can b addressed through providng sufficient schools, parks, social workers, jobs, security, health care, etcs. That is the interests of the community seem adequately served through alternatives to violations of privacy and liberty. There are, of course, difficult cases: prisoners, those with criminal histories and histories of profound mental illness or other health concerns. There is also the issue of enforcement. Consider a woman who is not licensed to reproduce but becomes pregnant anyway. What is to be done with her? A forced abortion? Liberty and privacy concerns rebuke that idea. Fines? That may end up harming the child by depriving its parent of resources needed to raise it well. Seizing the child and transferring it to another couple for adoption? Besides the liberty and privacy issues, most would, I think, find that punishment disporportionately punitive.

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