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About Reproductive Justice, Health, Rights & Human Biotechnology


Many applications of human biotechnologies, especially those involving reproduction, involve women's bodies. As these technologies are developed and used, women's well-being must be a central concern and reproductive rights must be firmly protected.

Assisted reproduction technologies have helped many people who otherwise could not have become parents of biologically related children. But these technologies tend to be costly and invasive. Their success rates, though improving, are still low. Most important, the long-term risks to women and children have not been well studied. Treating infertility has become a highly competitive business, and the field itself is notoriously under-regulated. Many experimental techniques are put into clinical use before they are adequately tested.

Other social, ethical, and practical concerns have also been raised: payments to encourage economically vulnerable women to provide eggs for other women's fertility treatment or to become surrogates; the increasing number of fertility clinics that offer social sex selection; and other forms of screening, testing, and selecting embryos. More radical reproductive technologies such as reproductive cloning and inheritable genetic modification (changing the genes we pass on to our children) are being used in animals, and though clearly dangerous, are being contemplated for use by humans.

It is not uncommon for those advocating these technologies to appropriate the language of reproductive choice to argue that parents should have the "right" to choose their children's characteristics. But as an increasing number of reproductive rights leaders point out, there are important differences between choosing when and whether to bear a child and creating a child with specified traits.

Advocates of technologies that would pre-determine the traits of future generations argue that these are "enhancements" that would improve the lives of children. But in addition to serious physical risks, significant social and psychological hazards are likely. Children born with pre-selected traits would come into the world expected to look, act, and perform according to specifications. Unreasonable and unfulfilled parental expectations can certainly flourish without these technologies, but expectations grounded in scientific claims and expensive procedures would likely be far more pronounced.



Canadian Lawyers Urge Caution as Women Seek Unconventional Paths to ‘Autonomous Motherhood’by Douglas QuanMontreal GazetteJune 25th, 2015Despite British Columbia's legal recognition of same-sex parents who have children via sperm and egg donors, women seeking to become “single mothers by choice" face legal uncertainty.
Unregulated Surrogacy: Law Yet to Deliverby Vandana ShuklaThe Tribune [India]June 24th, 2015The Indian Council of Medical Research has to draft an appropriate, more equitable legislation that would look at the rights of the surrogate and her health vis-a-vis technology.
CRISPR: Move Beyond Differencesby Charis ThompsonNature CommentJune 24th, 2015Researchers and ethicists need to see past what can seem to be gendered debates when it comes to the governance of biotechnology.
Should You Freeze Your Eggs?by Debora SparMarie ClaireJune 22nd, 2015The entire business of egg freezing borders on a trap. What it's really selling is a hedge against regret: a way for women to avoid waking up one morning with the sudden realization that they've forgotten to have a baby.
French Families Sue State to Recognize Surrogate Birthsby Philippe SottoAssociated PressJune 19th, 2015The case could change how surrogate births are handled in France, where infertility treatments are highly regulated and where many consider it unethical to make money off human reproduction.
Unused Embryos Pose Difficult Issue: What to Do With Themby Tamar LewinThe New York TimesJune 17th, 2015In storage facilities across the nation, hundreds of thousands of frozen embryos — perhaps a million — are preserved in silver tanks of liquid nitrogen.
UK Seeks Regulatory Advice for “Mitochondrial Replacement,” Fails to Mention Cross-Generational Implicationsby Jessica CussinsBiopolitical TimesJune 17th, 2015How does one go about regulating the world’s first cross-generational biological experiment in human germline modification? The regulating body in charge isn’t exactly sure.
Down Syndrome Screening isn’t About Public Health. It’s About Eliminating a Group of People.by Renate LindemanWashington PostJune 16th, 2015Testing should be used to enhance health and human well-being instead of discriminating against people based on their genetic predisposition.
No Más Bebés: A Documentary on the Sterilizations of Latina Mothers at an LA County Hospital by Jonathan ChernoguzBiopolitical TimesJune 15th, 2015During the late 1960s and early 1970s, some women who went to Los Angeles County-USC Medical Center to deliver their babies went home without the ability to have children again.
Pre-Implantation Diagnosis to be Allowedby Jeannie WurzSwissInfo [Switzerland]June 14th, 2015About 62% of Swiss voters have said yes to genetic screening of embryos before implantation in a woman’s uterus.
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