'It is a cornerstone of modern society and law that deaf and hearing people have equal rights. If hearing people were to have the right to throw away a deaf embryo, then we as deaf people should also have the right to throw away a hearing embryo.'
There was an incredible piece in The Observer yesterday describing a deaf couple who object to the government's Human Fertilisation and Embryology bill. While others have struggled with proposals in the bill that would permit the creation of human-animal hybrid embryos, Tomato Lichy and Paula Garfield object to the following clause:
Persons or embryos that are known to have a gene, chromosome or mitochondrion abnormality involving a significant risk that a person with the abnormality will have or develop --
(a) a serious physical or mental disability,
(b) a serious illness, or
(c) any other serious medical condition,
must not be preferred to those that are not known to have such an abnormality.
Tomato Lichy's contention that they should have the right to destroy healthy embryos exposes how far the pro-choice lobby have brought us. For the whole debate focuses around the utility of particular embryos to particular individuals (in this case, members of a "linguistic minority"–as Lichy and Garfield describe themselves). However, surely this line of argument completely misses the bigger issue of the value and rights of the individuals that they are fighting over - namely, the embryonic deaf or hearing child.
When interviewed on the Today programme this morning, Tomato Lichy said he could not participate in a procedure that would involve the destruction of a deaf child. Perhaps the solution to the apparent dilemma lies right there. If we were not to participate in the destruction of the life of any child, then we wouldn't find ourselves debating what disabilities or minority groups are or are not worthy of protecting and nurturing. Might I suggest that for those who are struggling to conceive, there is always adoption? Among the approximately 4,000 children waiting for adoption placements in the UK, there may even be a number who are deaf and who would be perfectly placed with deaf couples.