Discrimination Through Prenatal Testing: The Role of the Liberal State


Zoom: https://mcgill.zoom.us/j/85001496080

The Centre for Human Rights and Legal Pluralism and the Institute for Health and Social Policy welcome Professor Christopher Kaposy for a presentation on prenatal screening and discrimination. His talk will be moderated by Professor Jonas-Sébastien Beaudry.


Liberal states have the goal of promoting the well-being of their citizens. They also allow citizens the freedom to define for themselves what their well-being consists in. On the one hand, prenatal testing enables autonomous choice in reproduction – a choice allowed in a liberal state. On the other hand, the urge to screen out disabilities like Down syndrome is motivated by an atmosphere of bias against people with these conditions.

I argue that putatively autonomous choices are subject to influence and manipulation by institutional forces such as medicalization, corporate advertising, and other forms of persuasion. By deferring to the autonomous choices of its citizens, the liberal state can provide little counter-weight against discriminatory attitudes expressed through prenatal testing. While corporate and institutional forces construct choices and values, the liberal state leaves the field, to the detriment of people with disabilities. This talk will consider possible lines of response for those of us opposed to ableism.

About the speaker

Chris Kaposy is an Associate Professor in the Centre for Bioethics, Faculty of Medicine, Memorial University. He is author of Choosing Down Syndrome: Ethics and New Prenatal Testing Technologies (2018) published by MIT Press. He is also editor of the Canadian bioethics blog ImpactEthics.ca.

This event is eligible for inclusion as 1.5 hours of continuing legal education as reported by members of the Barreau du Québec.

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