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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.

Putting a Price on Human Eggs Makes No Senseby Debora SparFortuneNovember 21st, 2015No one wants to deal with the ugly reality that egg donation is not donation at all, but a high price paid for a piece of one’s body. We have identified this transaction and allowed it. Now we are only squabbling over the price.
California Judge Orders Frozen Embryos Destroyed[cites CGS Fellow Lisa Ikemoto]by Andy NewmanThe New York TimesNovember 19th, 2015A superior court judge in San Francisco ordered the thawing and destruction of a divorced couple's frozen embryos, enforcing the terms of the couple's pre-divorce agreement.
CRISPR Gene Editing: Proofreaders and Undo Buttons, but Ever "Safe" Enough?by Elliot Hosman, Biopolitical TimesNovember 19th, 2015Recent trends include research reports of "spellcheck" and "undo" functions associated with CRISPR gene editing, and a shift toward greater caution about germline applications.
Better Babiesby Nathaniel ComfortAeonNovember 17th, 2015The long and peculiar history of the designer human, from Plato’s citizen breeders to Nobel sperm banks, and the latest iteration of human genetic perfectability: CRISPR gene editing.
[China] Couples in China making babies through assisted reproductionChina DailyNovember 14th, 2015Half of the 90 million Chinese women now allowed to have a second child are between the ages of 40 and 49, and many couples are turning to assisted reproduction clinics.
[Cambodia] Gov’t to Crack Down on Surrogacy Clinicsby Chea Takihiro & Jonathan CoxKhmer TimesNovember 11th, 2015Surrogacy companies are moving their “wombs for rent” services from Thailand to Cambodia, but government officials plan to classify surrogacy as a form of human trafficking.
Eggs unlimitedby Jennifer Couzin-FrankelScienceNovember 6th, 2015OvaScience's fertility procedure appalls some reproductive biologists, and is currently not permitted in the US. But the company is marketing its treatment in Canada and some analysts are upbeat.
How Much Should a Woman Be Paid for Her Eggs?by Jacoba UristThe AtlanticNovember 4th, 2015Is the money a woman receives for her eggs payment for her services, her discomfort, or her biological property?
'Modern twist' on fertility technique may offer hope for sterile menby Denis CampbellThe GuardianNovember 2nd, 2015Fourteen children have been born in a trial in Japan using immature sperm cells, injected into electrically stimulated eggs – a method banned in the UK since the 1990s.
'Somebody has to be the icebreaker': Aussies seeking babies turn to Cambodiaby Lindsay MurdochSydney Morning HeraldOctober 30th, 2015A booming surrogacy industry chased out of Thailand and Nepal has established itself in Cambodia, where human trafficking laws and a lack of surrogacy regulation could produce fraught legal battles.
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