Reproductive Public Health Ethics


Christian Munthe, Dept of Philosophy, Linguistics and Theory of Science, University of Gothenburg. Email:

Human reproduction and resulting population patterns is a classic concern of public policy, yet philosophical and ethical applications to this area remain imprecise, scattered and unsystematic. The point of this workshop is to stimulate a more integrated addressing of this area for social and political philosophical analysis from a public health standpoint. Reproductive bioethics hosts established interest in the regulation of reproductive technology, yet mostly ignoring overarching societal concerns to the benefit of a discourse focusing on individual reproductive liberty. This individualism has stimulated the emergence of public health ethics, where queries regarding health policy are put at a population level, but reproduction- and population issues have not been in focus, partly due to a common conflation in public health between reproductive and sexual health. In parallel, biopolitics subjects cultural layers of policy to critical scrutiny regarding “identities” and concepts central to laws across the world – e.g. parenthood and family – in light of, e.g., technological developments. Also here, public health ethical perspectives are scant, while dimensions of justice otherwise often ignored are addressed, making possible, e.g., explorations of hidden presumtions behind reproductive policies. More basic research on population ethics, while having somewhat informed reproductive bioethics, remains largely unexplored as to more conrete political and policy implications in either of the mentioned dimensions, e.g. in the face of environmental challenges and expected consequences in the form of resource scarcity and global migration. There are also theoretical conundrums which need attention, e.g. how justice-oriented discourses of biopolitics can be squared with the intricate problems of population ethics, or how the combination of these and a globalised public health ethical approach relates to the individualist assumptions of reproductive bioethics. The workshop assembles a selected group of presenters from the Netherlands, Romania, Sweden and the UK.


Presenters and titles:

Gustaf Arrhenius, Stockholm University: Reproductive Policy and Population Ethics.

Richard Ashcroft, Queen Mary University of London: Reproductive Public Health Policy and Human Rights Law – Ethical Tensions and Concerns

Rebecca Brown, University of Aberdeen: Incentives for Reproductive Public Health

Krister Bykvist, Stockholm University: Evaluative Uncertainty and Population Ethics. What to Do When the Value of Population Changes is Uncertain

Daniela Cutas, Umeå University & University of Gothenburg: The Nuclear Family and Reproductive Policy: Ethical Challenges

Angus Dawson, University of Birmingham: Public Health Reproduction: Defending the Very Idea

Anca Gheaus, Sheffield University: Biological Parenthood: Gestational not Genetic – Implications for Reproductive and Family Law

Kalle Grill, Umeå University: Population Policy in the Face of Environmental Challenge: What Place for Reproductive Liberty?

Christian Munthe, University of Gothenburg: Reproductive Population Health and the Goals of Public Health: Exploring a Territory of Moral Unease

Marian Verkerk, University of Groningen & Ulrik Kihlbom, Uppsala University: Preconception Genetic Testing and Reproductive Counselling as Challenge to the Family as Social Institution

Marcel Verwij, Wageningen University: Providing for the Population: Addressing the Ethics of Food in Reproductive Policy

Stephen Wilkinson, Lancaster University: The Public Health Ethics of Selecting Future Children


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