But wait! The "child who comes from me” template can be filled through adoption (I argued in chapter 1), even though the adoptive parent enters the picture after the child’s birth. Why, then, is anyone justified in creating a new child, rather than adopting one of the children already in need of parents? After all, the sense of survival through progeny is available without any change to the world’s census.

There are various points to be made here. It is possible to have the sense of survival through adopted progeny, but is it possible for everyone? Perhaps not all of us are that flexible, that capable of seeing ourselves in another person, without a biological connection. In any case, adoption for all would be impossible. There aren’t enough parentless children available for everyone to form families that way. And treating adoption as a duty would be expecting a great deal of prospective parents. The adoption process, whether domestic or international, is often an arduous thing, full of red tape, delays, and setbacks.

What we really ought to talk about is a societal responsibility for parentless children. We should do all we can so that they have parents. It doesn’t follow that any particular person is obligated to achieve the sense of projection into the future—ersatz survival—through adoption rather than procreation. We can discharge the societal obligation by collectively creating incentives to adopt, by bestowing special admiration on adopters, by treating adopted kids just the same as anyone else, by removing any remaining stigma from adoption. We would be going too far if we treated adoptive parents as simply doing what they ought to do, if they want to be parents, and treated biological parents as doing what’s impermissible.

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