Magazine article Herizons

The New Reproductive Technologies: Maybe We Can Control the Means of Reproduction

Magazine article Herizons

The New Reproductive Technologies: Maybe We Can Control the Means of Reproduction

Article excerpt

THE NEW REPRODUCTIVE TECHNOLOGIES: Maybe We Can Control the Means of. Reproduction

By the time the Canadian Royal Commission on New Reproductive Technologies was established, the public discussion of infertility and NRTs was already set. It had become a debate for or against the technologies as currently provided.

Pro-choice activists, who in the '70s held silent on the ambivalence women often experience around abortion even when they know it's the best choice to make, have learned a lot about the controlling nature of debates, especially as depicted by the media. They could have warned about the absolutism of arguments separated from the context of lived experience. They could have led the way in re-thinking the feminist debate, reframing it to encompass abortion as well as in-vitro fertilization (IVF), by taking women's lives as the context, and centring the discussion in women's voiced feelings, including the pain of infertility, the problematic desire to be mothers and the physical and emotional stakes associated with the IVF experiment.

In its brief to the Royal Commission on NRTs, Canada's best known feminist voice on choice, The Canadian Abortion Rights Action League (CARAL) confined its comments to access to abortion as it related to sex selection, fetal tissue transplants, pre-natal screening and the abortion pill RU486, leaving it to the National Action Committee on the Status of Women (or NAC, an umbrella group of which CARAL is a member) to comment on in-vitro fertilization and its tie-in with genetic engineering.

NAC presented a thoroughly researched set of concerns about the NRTs: success rates so low that the treatment has to be seen as highly experimental; the risks and costs associated with multiple births, including premature and low-birth-weight babies resulting from fertility drugs and multiple embryo implantations; and the unknown risks associated with the drugs themselves.

A Handmaid's Tale

However, within hours of NAC's brief, "A Technological Handmaid's Tale," being presented, the media had scripted it into a feminists-against-technology-and-infertile-women debate.

CBC's Canada at Five pitted NAC president Judy Rebick against infertile Ann Andrews. Global News repeated this at 6:00, and so did CITI TV: both had a clip of Judy Rebick, followed by Ann Andrews, on her sixth attempt at IVF, saying: "I knew my odds were 10 per cent. …

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