Encyclopedia of Reproductive Technologies

By Annette Burfoot | Go to book overview

six
New Definitions
of Family

ERICA HAIMES

Implications of assisted-conception techniques include innovations in family formations and the notion of parents and children and wider kinship ties. Even though the original motivation to use the new reproductive technologies might initially have a narrower focus (to become a mother or to become a father or to have a child), these wider consequences are as important.

The first point is that each person who has achieved parenthood through the use of assisted conception may find that the individual is considered merely one fragment in a wider mosaic of parenting relationships. For example, it is now common in medical and academic literature to find the woman's role divided into three types of motherhood: the genetic mother, the carrying mother, and the nurturing mother. This fragmentation then has the curious effect of raising questions about how best to label the woman who combines all three elements. Similarly, a man could be either a genetic father or a nurturing father or both. A distinction is now also made between genetic and gestatory surrogacy: The former applies to the situation when the "surrogate mother" provides the egg, the latter when she carries an embryo for the "commissioning parents." Whereas this terminology is important in identifying the different elements of the process to parenthood, another, more prosaic, distinction occurs in everyday usage: that between biological and social parents. The entrance of this distinction into common parlance is an indication of the

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