In this paper I look at the much-discussed case of disabled parents seeking to conceive (or “selecting for”) disabled children. I argue that the permissibility of selecting for disability does not depend on the precise impact the disability will have on the child’s wellbeing. I then turn to an alternative analysis, which argues that the permissibility of selecting for disability depends on the impact that disability will have on the child’s future opportunities. Nearly all bioethicists who have approached the issue in this way have argued that disabilities like deafness unacceptably constrain a child’s opportunities. I argue, however, that this conclusion is premature for several reasons. Most importantly, we don’t have a good way of comparing opportunity sets. Thus, we can’t conclude that deaf children will grow up to have a constrained set of opportunities relative to hearing children. I conclude by suggesting that bioethicists and philosophers of disability need to spend more time thinking carefully about the relationship between disability and opportunity.
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