I don't even know how to title this...

Lesbians: We made our baby deaf on purpose.
by James Langton in New York

A deaf lesbian couple have admitted deliberately creating what are believed to be the world’s first designer handicapped babies.

The two women tracked down a deaf sperm donor to ensure that their daughter, who is now five, would inherit the same inherited hearing disabilty that they both share.

The couple were so pleased with the result that they have just had a second child, called Gauvin, using the same technique. Doctors who examined the boy say he is completely deaf in one ear and has only partial hearing in the other.

In an interview with the Washington Post, the women - Sharon Duchesneau, who gave birth, and Candace McCullough, her lesbian lover - say that they believe deafness is “an identity not a medical affliction that needs to be fixed”.

They were so desperate to have children who share their handicap that the women asked their local sperm bank to provide a deaf donor, but were told congential hearing loss immediately disqualifies candidates.

Instead they turned to a deaf male friend for help, producing what they call their first “perfect baby” - their five-year-old daughter Jehanne. Before their son was born, the women said: "A hearing baby would be a blessing; a deaf baby would be a special blessing.’’

Both women, who are in their mid thirties, belong to a radical school of thought that believes deafness is a “cultural identity” not a handicap.

They want their children to share the same “experiences” including learning, sign language and going to special schools for the deaf.

They also consulted a “genetic counsellor” before getting pregnant who told them that with Miss Duchesneau’s background, that includes four generations of deafness on her mother’s side, any child conceived with a deaf sperm donor would have a 50 per cent chance of having the same handicap.

After their daughter’s first hearing test, the couple wrote happily in her baby book: "Oct 11, 1996 - no response at 95 decibels - DEAF!’’ Their daughter attends a special kindergarten for children with hearing problems.

After tests on their baby son showed he also had severe problems, they decided against giving him a deaf aid in the one ear that still has some hearing, saying they will leave the decision to him when he is older.

The couple’s behaviour has appalled children’s rights groups in the United States. The conservative Family Research Council said their decision to “intentionally give a child a disability” was “incredibly selfish”.

The council’s spokesman, Fred Connor, said: "These women are taking the idea of creating so-called designer babies to a horrible new level.’’

Even a leading member of the American National Association for the Deaf, Nancy Rarus, said she “can’t understand why anyone would want to bring a disabled child into the world”.

There’s a thread about this in GD…

I for one agree-I think it’s pretty crass. I mean, what if said children grow up and decide they were missing out. Would they have grounds to sue?

I find it alarming too, but at the risk of starting a GD, I wonder why we find it more horrifying than a congenitally deaf man and woman marrying and having children (which is often the case).

I also find it a little bit odd how the first word in the headline is “lesbians,” as if the fact that they are lesbians has something to do with the controversy.

What’s alarming about it is the intention to have a deaf baby, and the (admittedly passive) actions to bring that about. While a congenitally deaf het couple having a baby and accepting what comes isn’t problematic, there’s a hard-to-define ickiness about planning a deaf child. Perhaps it’s simply really hard for hearing people (as I am one) to imagine that deafness could be desired, and that it might be okay to desire it for someone who can’t choose for themselves.

As for the “lesbian” thing… well, every queer person I know tends to be more aware of identity politics, and to be more accepting of alternative identities. I know that the deaf community can be quite militant about the integrity of their own culture, so it’s actually more plausible to me that a deaf lesbian couple would take the logical step (for them) of increasing the odds of having a deaf child.

Then again, maybe the word “lesbian” is in the headline just to prepare readers for the fact that the story mentions two women, rather than a woman and a man. Writing only about “the parent” and “the other parent” would be pointlessly obtuse for a news story.

Hrrm, so a loving couple is having a baby that is everything they could humanly want and they love it.


I agree, this article seems like its trying to daemonize same sex couples having children by taking this example.

Personally, I think that they might need therapy about their opinion of deafness… I can see some major issues in that family if their children have the oppertunitity to have their hearing restored there may be issues…

Think about it though… Would any of you think twice about a dwarf couple who go to a geneticist to mak\e sure their child is also a dwarf?

They identify themselves with a cultural group “Deaf”… So is their pregnancy to have a deaf child any different from someone who marries within their ethnic group to ensure that their child is also of the same culture/ethnic group. Is that a bad thing?

Or does everyone have to have a perfect baby? You can’t have children with the same genetic deficiencies that the parents do? Should we have a law that everyone must have genetically engineered perfect children?

We already make decisions based off this whenever we select someone as a possible mate. We evaluate the other person’s physical traits for what is desirable. Traits that we know will be passed on to their children.
Anyhoo, check out the dates that this happened. This is old news, god knows why the editor let it in… Its neither timely nor particularly interesting…

“Horrifying” is a little strong for describing how I feel, but I go along with “alarming”, “crass” and “icky.”

I would support two deaf parents that decided to have a child, even it were 100% certain that their child would be deaf. But if the deaf man were impotent, I would hope that they would try to find a hearing person to be a sperm donor, or adopt.

Is it common for deaf people to consider their condition a “cultural identity” instead of a disability?

These two women are apparently happy despite being deaf. No reason their kids won’t be, too. I’ll wager they’re also hoping their kids grow up to be gay, too. Should we be shocked and disgusted if they found a gay sperm donor, hoping that homosexuality is genetic?

The Great Debates thread.

Deafness is regarded by most as a disability–pretty reasonably, I think–while ethnicity is not (necessarily). There is a fairly militant deaf culture, but I expect that most deaf people would view themselves, at best, as getting along pretty well in a world in which they are handicapped, with a very supportive culture behind them.

Would it be wrong for a man and woman with birth defects to take Thalidomide during her pregnancy to ensure similar birth defects? If the lesbians’ child was born with full hearing, would it be wrong of them to have the child’s hearing surgically removed so it could participate fully in the deaf community?

Well, let’s ignore for a moment the sensual aspects of hearing; the fact that music, for instance, is so compelling that we
spend billions of dollars a year to listen to it, and these people have deliberately deprived their children of that pleasure. For that alone, they should burn. Let’s just examine some of the practical implications of what they’ve done.

a. They’ve limited their children’s choice of professions. There are some things you just can’t do if you’re deaf. I imagine being a pilot is out. Musician is unlikely. Most service jobs would be a lot tougher. Even something as prosaic as car mechanic is vastly more difficult – a lot of car diagnosis is done by listening to the sound the car makes.

b. They’ve made their children’s lives much less safe. If you can’t hear a siren, or an approaching car or a warning cry to look out for a falling object, then your chances of accidents increases.

c. While deaf people can manage very well in the world, they do so mostly by relying on sight. So what if, God forbid, something happens to one of their children’s vision? A good engineer would never deliberately toss out a backup system.

d. They’ve made it vastly more difficult and expensive for the children to get a good education. Chances are that they will be demanding resources from either their local school system or the state to provide special needs teachers for their kids. (In other words, this little whim of theirs is likely going to cost us money.)

e. They’ve screwed up their kids social lives. The pool of friends and lovers who are equipped and willing to interact with the non-hearing is smaller than the pool who can interact with the hearing population.

f. They’ve eliminated the child’s ability to time-share tasks. No listening to the news while doing dishes, or listening to a book on tape while driving.

So the kids might be perfectly happy being deaf. But there’s a pretty good chance that they’d be happier if they could hear.

I certainly would. But then, I would think twice about most attempts to design one’s children, especially something as superficial as height. This is a living person, not a fashion accesory.

The couple in the article wants a deaf baby more than anything else, but they seem to more interested in the “deaf” than the “baby”. I’m curious as to what their reaction would have been if the child had been born with average hearing.

Old news.

Who cares?

If this is the worst thing that befalls a child in this country, we have it made as a society.

Manny peoples marry only in their own faith. Wassusp with that?

What if the biological mother really cares for the deaf male, is protected sex still mandatory?