The Political “Nature” of
Pregnancy and Childbirth
According to recent reports from the Canadian Institutes for Health Research, “the use of assisted reproductive technology (ART) has increased dramatically since the first in vitro fertilization in 1981.”1 The range of permissible ARTs (defined through federal legislation in 2004) includes the donation, freezing and storage of eggs, the donation of sperm and other reproductive material, in vitro fertilization, and surrogate motherhood; on the horizons of medical research and ethical imagination sits human reproductive cloning.2 Future technological interventions are the subject of great speculation, as well as consternation, and have raised questions about the degree to which these sorts of interventions threaten to fundamentally alter human nature.3 The CIHI indicates that in 2001 only 0.4 percent of all births in Canada were the products of in vitro fertilization, but it is likely that the number of assisted conceptions will continue to rise, given that the current trend is toward women delaying reproduction until they have established careers or other goals (the average age at which a woman has her first child is approximately 29.7.4 Delay of pregnancy and childbirth can pose fertility challenges, and the benefits of scientific technological development offer to offset or diminish those challenges with an ever-expanding range of options.
Such possibilities, for better or worse, have created a profound historical moment, one in which reproductive technologies have outpaced ethical deliberations over their utility. For women and their partners, there are new possibilities for the creation of families. ARTs provide for the contestation