Encyclopedia of Reproductive Technologies

By Annette Burfoot | Go to book overview

Preface

The birth of Louise Brown in 1978 signified a remarkable shift in medical and scientific intervention in human reproduction. Before this time, human reproductive technologies were limited to contraception, relatively crude assisted-conception techniques such as artificial insemination, and interventions during established pregnancies and at birth. Louise was the first "test tube" baby, the product of in vitro fertilization, or IVF, and was the first person born as a result of assisted conception outside the body of a woman. Since her birth, other conception-based and postconception technologies have emerged. One of the more controversial developments involves genetic screening and the genetic engineering of preimplanted embryos. The following encyclopedic survey provides clear descriptions of the key reproductive technologies of assisted conception from IVF to cloning. More important, it contextualizes them both historically and critically.

The text emphasizes recently developed reproductive techniques and introduces them to those unfamiliar with the technologies. Technical entries are written in an accessible manner so that those without a scientific background can understand. The text also covers the technological precedents (such as contraception and birth technologies) and the controversies and criticism surrounding recent developments. The prime purpose of this book is to provide a holistic view of the complex world of reproductive technologies and to bridge the gap between science and society. The selection of entries allows the reader to find in one place both the necessary technical explanations of an increasingly complex field and the social and historical contexts of these developments.

The text is organized into five thematic areas. It begins with a critical overview of the history of reproductive theory from classical Greece to the present with an analysis of the language of new reproductive technologies. The second part focuses on contraception and abortion, along with historical and critical perspectives and debates on these issues. The text moves from postconception interventions to conception and preconception technologies and their respective social and critical environments. The third part focuses on older, established technologies of assisted conception such as artificial insemination and donor insemination. Critical issues include lesbian and single women's access to such technologies as

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