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Discussing New Reproductive Technologies at Annual Meeting

We’re pleased to share this blog post from special AN reporter Marianne Butler. She reports here on sessions about reproductive technology.

Vignettes of foetuses being asked to serve as “expert witnesses” in determining when life begins, through the reproduction of the “socially dead” and the tracing of reproductional debris, to an elision of counting embryos and counting sheep as both serve to lessen anxiety, the first two days of the AAA conference have offered a plethora of insights into the domain of “New Reproductive Technologies” (NRTs) or “Assisted Reproductive Technologies” (ARTs).

The papers I have thus far had the privilege of listening to cover widely divergent branches of the emergent field of technological assistance in the domain of human reproduction, as my summaries above show. However, in this blog post I would like to highlight some themes I have found to be particularly poignant.

Connections between morality and legality thread their way through discussions of NRTs.  When questions of surrogacy are addressed, the moral dichotomies portrayed in popular media coverage “good” (altruistic) and “bad” (commercial) are reflected in legal determinations of what kinds of surrogacy are legal and illegal. The depiction of NRTs as purely medical interventions solving medical problems by medical practitioners is brought into question when the social, religious and legal considerations of the technologies are evaluated.  Individual desires shape the use of NRTs, often contrary to the intentions of the policy makers regulating their usage.  Additionally, reflections on the notions of what the purpose of recording information is for in assisted reproduction, whether that be in decisions over anonymity, or the number of embryos currently being used for stem cell research, have been analytically stimulating. 

Reproductive technology, is very far from being a utilitarian tool. Rather it is shaped by the social, moral, ethical, religious and legal mores and norms of the people using it, those reflecting on its usage and those determining how others can use it.

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