The Risks of Test-Tube Baby Making in Egypt
Marcia C. Inhorn
Since 1978, when the world's first “test-tube baby,” Louise Brown, was born in England, new reproductive technologies (NRTs)—particularly in vitro fertilization (IVF)—have rapidly gained acceptance in the Western world and are now routinely employed in most “developed” countries to overcome otherwise intractable infertility. Clearly, NRTs—and particularly the more controversial or sensational aspects of their deployment, including high-order multiple births, third-party gamete donation practices, and pregnancies in postmenopausal women—have attracted both media and scholarly attention in the West. Although the media have tended to glorify the successes of NRTs—including the “miracle babies” born to “desperate” infertile couples (Condit 1994; Franklin 1997)—many scholars, including feminist theorists, bioethicists, technoscience studies scholars, anthropologists, and even some health care practitioners engaged in the provision of NRTs, have been less sanguine, revealing how these technologies are both a blessing and a curse. Feminist scholars in particular have described in great detail all that is “wrong” with the NRTs,1 often focusing on the risks of these technologies to women's bodies and to women's status when motherhood is pursued “at all costs,” thereby upholding traditional patriarchal family forms (Thompson 2001).
My deepest gratitude goes to the many Egyptians—infertile women and their hus-
bands, physicians specializing in infertility and NRTs, research assistants, Al-Azhar
University faculty members, and staff of the Binational Fulbright Commission—who
have participated in or in other ways facilitated my research over the past two decades. I
am also grateful for the financial support provided by the U.S. Department of Edu-
cation's Fulbright-Hays fellowship programs, the Fulbright Institute for International
Education, and the National Science Foundation. My thanks go to Barbara Herr
Harthorn and Laury Oaks for their insightful editorial comments on this chapter.