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Should cousin marriage continue to be legally banned?

By January 12, 2009 - 10:55am
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I just read an interesting article citing opinions of two professors, Prof. Hamish Spencer of the University of Otago and Prof. Diane Paul at Harvard, who believe that laws banning marriage between first cousins are outdated. Apparently, while comparing stats from the US National Society of Genetic Counselors (NSGC), the professors assert that the genetic risks involved with first cousins having children with birth defects is similar to mothers who are over 40. So, since we aren't banning women who are over 40 from having children, we shouldn't ban first cousins from reproducing either. What do you think about this?

Here's the link to the article: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/12/081222221535.htm

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EmpowHER Guest

My friend from work actually came from an incest relationship and she has many health issues that are caused from first cousins getting married and having children. She is the first of the incest relationship and her children also have several issues that were caused from the incestual relationship.

I think that due to the nature of the medical issues associated with the relationship, that it should remain banned. The result is that my friend had horrible problems becoming pregnant. Her daughter that recently married is also having issues conceiving a child.
This is just one story that I know of but I am certain that there are several others.

January 18, 2009 - 4:05pm

I'd be interested to see statistics on first cousins marrying, and find out more about their demographics. It may be that as a whole, they are younger people in more rural areas and that they simply don't meet as many other people that they aren't related to.

Here's a paragraph from a USA Today story on this:

"Cousin marriage has been widespread in rural societies, where it serves to keep money and property within families. The practice is still popular in much of the Muslim world, including Saudi Arabia and Pakistan. Genetics researcher Alan Bittles estimates that 20% of marriages worldwide are between relatives who are first cousins.

"Genetics counselors say there are no exact figures for the USA, but experience suggests that about one marriage in 1,000 is between first cousins."

Here's the whole story:


January 13, 2009 - 9:37am

There was a time, a long time ago, when marriage between cousins was not only acceptable, but sometimes encouraged. My parents were cousins, albeit very distant.

But, like others have said, I find thinking romantically about a cousin rather bizarre.

As for the birth defects risk, I totally agree with the ban on first cousin marriages on that basis.

January 12, 2009 - 5:45pm

I found it interesting when I read the article that only about 30 or so states actually have a law in place to ban marriage to a first cousin. I guess I'd assumed that it was illegal in every state.

In any case, I'm with you -- I think it's bizarre to even think of your cousin (first or second or third for that matter) in a romantic or sexual way. Yikes. But, I hadn't even thought about the fact that being in your 40's and having a baby would place you in the same genetic risk for birth defects as a if you'd had the baby with your first cousin. That's wild. I only thought there was just an increased risk for Down syndrome.

January 12, 2009 - 1:03pm
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