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Human Reproduction vol.12 no.9 pp.2068–2075, 1997

Evidence-based ethics and the regulation of reproduction*

Robert P.S.Jansen
University of Sydney at Sydney IVF, Sydney, Australia Address for correspondence: 187 Macquarie Street, Sydney 2000, Australia

Getting pregnant and having children has rarely been a wholly personal matter. The institutions of society—from the elders of the village, through the churches, to elected governments (and the interest groups that lobby them today)—have always had much to say on the subject of who can get married, how they should behave sexually, and what they are free or not free to do with their pregnancies and offspring. Over the last several hundred years, these institutions (themselves evolving) have had to come to terms with at least four revolutionary changes in the technicalities of human reproduction and their social consequences (Jansen, 1997): the predictable survival of children into adulthood; the re-invention of divorce; the development of efficient contraception and safe pregnancy termination; and, lately, effective (if still expensive) treatment of infertility. In this article I examine how governments, commissions of inquiry and statutory authorities are continuing to set moral standards for the community on reproductive behaviour when conception is assisted medically. Using illustrations from fiction and from recently developed national rules in several countries for the practice of modern reproductive medicine, I make a case for governments and their agencies to ascertain outcomes of harm or good done to determine ethics-based policy and to use time clauses to require review of moralitybased restrictive laws and regulations. ‘Peace, order and good government power’ and ‘community, identity and stability’ ‘The Supreme Court has decided that the peace, order, and good government power can be invoked in support of federal legislative action. We are firmly of the belief that new reproductive technologies, as...

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