Academic journal article The Hastings Center Report

What Price Parenthood?

Academic journal article The Hastings Center Report

What Price Parenthood?

Article excerpt

Current reproductive technology challenges us to think seriously about social values surrounding childbeating. Thoughtful discussion must combine careful attention to the experience of pursuing parenthood by technological means with principled reflection on the morality of this pursuit

The ceremony goes as usual.

I lie on my back, fully clothed except for the healthy white cotton underdrawers. What I could see, if I were to open my eyes, would be the large white canopy of Serena Joy's outsized colonial-style four-poster bed, suspended like a sagging cloud above us...

Above me, towards the head of the bed, Serena Joy is arranged, outspread. Her legs are apart, I lie between them, my head on her stomach, her pubic bone on the base of my skull, her thighs on either side of me. She too is fully clothed.

My arms are raised; she holds my hands, each of mine in each of hers. This is supposed to signify that we are one flesh, one being. What it really means is that she is in control, of the process and thus of the product...

My red skirt is hitched up to my waist, though no higher. Below it the Commander is fucking. What he is fucking is the lower pan of my body. I do not say making love, because this is not what he's doing. Copulating too would be inaccurate, because it would imply two people and only one is involved. (Margaret Atwood, The Handmaid's Tale).

This chilling depiction of the process of reproduction in the fictional Republic of Gilead provides a vision of what many feminists believe will soon be reality if the new reproductive technologies (NRTS) proceed unchecked. Children will be thought of exclusively as products. Women will be valuable merely as breeders. Reproductive prostitution Y611 emerge as women are forced to sell wombs, ovaries, and eggs in reproductive brothels.' Men will be more fully in control than ever.

There was a time when I would have dismissed such claims as wildly alarmist. I still believe these worries to be overblown. Yet I have been haunted by this passage from The Handmaid's Tale as I have stood, month after month, holding my wife Lisa's hand as she, feet in stirrups, has received my sperm from the catheter that her doctor has maneuvered into her uterus. Indeed, once, when the nurse asked me to stand behind her to hold steady an uncooperative light I wondered perversely whether I shouldn't, like Serena joy, play my symbolic pall by moving rhythmically as the nurse emptied the syringe. Having experienced the world of reproductive medicine firsthand, I believe we need to take a closer look at feminist objections to NRTS.

Here, then, I will review objections that some feminists have raised to such technologies as in vitro fertilization (FVF), artificial insemination with donor sperm (AID), and surrogate motherhood, and relate these objections to my own experience. I take up feminist objections because, although there is no one "feminist" response to reproductive technology, some of the most forceful objections to this technology have come from writers who are self consciously feminist and understand their opposition to the NRTS to be rooted in their feminism. Moreover, the international feminist organization FINRRAGE (Feminist International Network of Resistance to Reproductive and Genetic Engineering) is committed to opposing the spread of reproductive technology, and it is from this group that we have the most sustained and systematic attack on NRTS in the literature. I relate these objections to my own experience because, in my view, all serious moral reflection must attend to the concrete experience of particular individuals and thus inevitably involves a dialectical movement between general principles and our reactions to particular cases. The need to balance appeals to abstract rules and principles with attention to the affective responses of particular individuals has not always been sufficiently appreciated in moral theory or in medical ethics. …

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