Regulation, Consultation and Divergent Community Views

In the many countries which have some form of regulation of ART, a public consultation of some sort is a frequent feature of either the process leading up to regulation or of the regulatory mechanism itself. Not surprisingly, widely divergent views on the moral and political acceptability of ART are expressed during such consultations. And while such diversity of opinion is to be expected, and some even argue welcomed, in pluralist liberal democratic societies, it is often unclear how these divergent community views are and ought to be fed into the opinion-forming and decision-making processes of governments or the bodies that advise them. This article discusses first why regulation of ART may be justified, even when there is radical moral disagreement in the community, and why public consultations should play a central role in the work that advisory bodies undertake in making regulatory recommendations to government. Then, it both proposes and justifies a method for dealing with the contradictory moral views expressed by interested parties during the consultation process. To illustrate this method, the example of the attempt by single and lesbian women to access donor insemination services and ART is used.