Discuss some of the anthropological challenges raised by the introduction of NRT’s (New Reproductive Technologies). In the world we live today, technology plays a very important role in the construction of our society. By the means of new technologies, new theories, ideologies and perspectives are being applied to understand social phenomena. Society has gone, and is still going through a new revolution, because technology has changed the way we look at different sectors in our lives, such as in the way we communicate, social institutions, different jobs and so on.
In this assignment, I am going to write about new reproductive technologies and the impacts these leave regarding the family unit, as such technologies can change the meaning of what family is, or what the norm of the family used to be. These also challenge fundamental categories about what is natural, the expected roles a person should carry, kinship problems, marriage problems and how it could be affected, childbirth. These bring about questions about what is ethical, what should be legal, and also other philosophical problems.
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The new reproductive technologies constitute a broad variety of technologies aimed mostly at facilitating the process of reproduction, or even preventing or intervening this process such as by contraceptives and abortion. New reproductive technologies are being used more and more because of the infertility problem. Couples including an infertile partner seek these technologies as their remedies for their problem. The media started to promote such procedures. Certain studies have shown that the media promotes these technologies as being genius technologies, as if the doctors perform miraculous triumphs.
They don’t always involve the mother or father of the child in this medical experience. Examples of new reproductive technologies are super ovulation, in vitro fertilization (IVF), artificial insemination by donor, embryo flushing and transfer, surrogate motherhood and sex predetermination. These are the mostly common used, giving some hope and a possibility to infertile patients to have children. These procedures are somewhat questioned in a way or another. Such questions involve around practical and ethical problems, as experimenting on human mbryos could be dangerous and illegal in such ways as the embryos could be violated in a way. Cris Shore questions also if these reproductive technologies could lead to genetic engineering and if the human life could be destructed by these scientific experiments. The embryos are considered as living humans, even if they are not born yet. Should they be protected from commercial exploitation? Should they have human rights? Is it fair for us people to decide such ‘unnatural’ things? There are also continuous debates regarding the structure of parenthood.
Such problems includes the questioning of who should be considered to be the legal parent, if a child is born to a mother who is neither the child genetic nor social mother as for example in the case of surrogacy, what rights should a sperm donor have over children produced by in vitro fertilization, and even if the children should have rights over their genetic parents’ inheritance or successions. Other questions consider women’s lives and their roles in society. Such questions are mostly raised by feminists. How will these technologies affect their lives. Is it healthy for women, physically and mentally to go through such procedures?
Feminists also argue that these medical professions are still being dominated by men and they see this as a threat as they use female bodies to experiment on new technologies, plus devaluing the role of women in conception, gestation and birth. Physicians are sometimes seen as controllers of women’s procreative power, as at certain cases like these women are more fragile and therefore would do anything to find a solution for their infertility. All these questions are still being deeply dealt with as there are always new concerns to evaluate. (Cris Shore; 1992) Cris Shore speaks about the Warnock Report.
The committee were trying to confront the most difficult problem they faced, which was the relationship between social parenthood and biological procreation, which is the specifying of pater and mater, and the specifying of genitor and genetrix respectively. In his argument he mentions the debate about artificial insemination, which raised social and legal problems. The sperm donor might be the husband or just an anonymous man, but whether the husband or not, the sperm donor was never approved to be the legal or proper father as the reproduction procedure was not taken place naturally.
In fact, it was recommended to be made as a criminal offence in 1948, by a commission set up by the Archbishop of Canterbury. Therefore the child born from this procedure has an ambiguous status, or considered illegitimate. It is then made obvious that the husband of the woman, who raised the child, still has no rights or duties over him/her. These rights, in some way, belongs to the sperm donor, such that if the mother registers her husband to be the father of the child, even if he is not, she would be, of course, committing a crime as only if the husband is genetically the father, would he be considered legitimate.
Some who are against this procedure is particularly against for the reason that the husband would have not played his role in the procreation of the child, therefore considered as a bad thing to do. Although such objections were raised, the committee of Warnock still remained in favour of this procedure as they argued the case that people who don’t agree with the artificial insemination are not forced to practice it so it shouldn’t be a problem if it still exists as a solution for others who seek to try it.
Although they would only allow this procedure to take place to a couple in a stable relationship who can’t have children due to infertility, and not to single women who want to become mothers without any sexual relation, as this denies the ideology of the nuclear family and also violates the biological fatherhood. They even recommended that the law should change in a way that the child born from this procedure should still be treated by law as the legitimate child of his/her mother and the mother’s husband.
Then again, as some critiques argue about this, the child is said to be ‘treated’ as legitimate, but not to be in reality. This fact affects the traditional family unit and most of all, the child. (Cris Shore; 1992: 295-297) (Warnock report; 1984) Some studies have shown that women undergoing the IVF procedure usually put a great emphasis on how they feel natural about their pregnancies and that it feels quite normal also during childbirth and parenthood.
On the other hand, other studies on these new reproductive technologies show that women are usually stressful and exhausted, such that by these conditions the procedure would fail. Some anthropologists seek to know the difference between egg donation and sperm donation as these are accepted quite differently in various countries. In cultures where maternity is very important, egg and embryo donation is much more accepted than artificial insemination. This is because of certain ideologies about the experience of the maternal bonding during the pregnancy nd the experience of birth. On the other hand, in for example China, sperm donation is less accepted than egg donation as they believe mostly in patriarchal values and patrilineage continuity. Such acceptance can also be influenced by cultural constructions of gender. This can be seen, according to Haimes (1993), in Britain and the United States, where egg donation is seen as asexual and altruistic, such that Becker (2000) argues that because of this, a family member might be accepted to be the egg donor.
On the other hand sperm donation is seen as sexualized, and in this case having sperm donating from a family member is not so encouraged. (Levine; 2008; 381-383) Couples undergoing such reproduction technologies, or those parents who have already did, would rather keep things secret. It is very common that parents would hide the fact that they’ve gone under these procedures, such that some won’t even tell their whole family, and not even the children born by these reproduction systems.
In vitro fertilization, which is one of the less technologies being debated, is still being concealed by some people as in certain cases it uses the parents genetics, but they still hide it because it is considered unorthodox and could designate the child. (Modell 1989) IVF as time goes by is getting used to by people, but many still argue against the fact that donor insemination by an outsider breaks the biogenetics connections of the parent, plus the male feels shameful for his infertility. (Levine; 2008: 384)
Our traditional, normative, ideal nuclear family, and the social order and integrity it should have, is also threatened by the surrogate motherhood technology. Firestone, a feminist who in the 1970’s suggested that this new technology would be an advantage for women they won’t have to go through the problems and discomforts of pregnancy and childbirth. But on the contrary, contemporary feminists critique about this suggestion as the surrogate mothers would be in danger of becoming the victims of patriarchy and being existent just for others’ commodities.
There are also objections about surrogacy being an unnatural thing to do, as some say it’s “against God’s will”, it also breaks the bond between the mother and the child, as when the child is born he/she is given away. This is a very sad thing to do, getting pregnant having in mind all the way that you’re carrying your child just during pregnancy time. It’s very damaging for the child at the end especially if he gets to know the truth. The relationship between the mother and her child is intruded by a third party, which is the other woman who wants the child to be considered hers.
Another turn over in consideration with surrogacy is the fact that the child is being used for profit, therefore reproduction being commodified which goes against human dignity and is highly unethical. Concerns were also raised about women being exploited and that in a way this could be seen as child trafficking, not to mention that it could be also considered as an adulterous relationship. Then what about the child’s rights? Should the child be able to see his real genetic mother if he/she gets to know the truth and would like to see her? Should the child get to know the truth after all?
Surrogacy is not legally approved in many countries and states as it is seen one of the most problematic type of assisted reproduction. New Reproductive technologies brought a lot of concerns about the issue of commerce, in consideration to the family unit, which before was more likely to be seen as a private sector, and now is intruded by these reproductive technologies, changing its meaning and roles when it comes to conception. Of course money is always in consideration when it comes to childbearing, but in these sort of situations, such as having a child to give away for profit (such as in surrogacy), is of course doubted by many.
Some anthropologists argue that even ‘normal’ families wishing to reproduce are in a way consumer-oriented as they also have certain goals they want to attain, and therefore people who undergo new reproductive technologies shouldn’t be seen as doing something to be shameful of. People who undergo these procedures do so because they want to have children, multiply, have a family to grow with, having a child to take care of, love and respect. It’s more likely that the medical professors are inventing these technologies to make a business out of them and gain lots of money.
Of course they do make people happy, especially if someone is infertile and such procedures work out, but still at the back of their mind, in a way or another they are getting paid. (Shore; 1992: 206-301) (Levine; 2008: 381-385) Certain strong institutions which are dominant in societies such as the medical profession itself, the state or any other strong political party, and the church (or other religions) influence new reproductive technologies as they compete to attain he monopoly through the discourses which revolves around the concept of legitimate reproduction being conceptualized. Some scholars argue that new reproductive technologies have changed some cultures, their understanding of relatedness, brought thoughts to people minds and some began to question their beliefs, while others show that the utilization of these technologies is shaped by traditional kinship ideas. Due to changing cultures, the regulatory systems change as well. According to Dolgin (2000), the new reproductive technologies have had an impact also on family law. Shore; 1992: 300-302) Such advances in human embryology have brought a new urgency to many questions and debates, but still not enough to reach real answers. Public debates reveal important facets of contemporary beliefs, even though contradictory, such objective assessments have been argued on the issues of kinship, family, descent and even an issue such as inheritance, which for some these basic assumptions are taken for granted. The importance of the nuclear family and the blood ties is by time changing and diminishing.
Paternity is also being violated in a certain way. The new reproductive technologies also contributed directly to women and their roles, both towards the family and towards society. While some argue against the control which these technologies represent over the individuals’ mind and body, others are in favour of these developments as they have created positive changes to social influences and implications. Of course, like nearly everything in the world, some see these advances as a threat and others would rather go for their advantages.
Feminists see these new reproduction technologies as a kind of attempt to control women’s bodies and to ‘steal’ their unique source of power, since most of the medical professors and inventors of these technologies are males. On the other hand, other anthropologists have pointed out that these technologies are produced and productive of modern biomedicine, and that women shouldn’t be seen just as being victims of these technologies, but they are also part of the involvement for their own production.
A debate I consider important is the debate which in fact argues about the rights of the child, the dispute about the life of the embryo and foetus as not all people consider them as living human beings as they are still not born. Such debates includes what should be ethical, moral and legal to do in cases where women want to terminate their pregnancies, or also what should be their knowledge in the future is they were born under such circumstances. After all, it’s the child who should be protected through the whole process and after.
Reference: * Cris Shore, “Virgin Births and Sterile Debates: Anthropology and the New Reproductive Technologies”, Volume 33, Number 3; 1992. * Eckart Voland, “Evolutionary Ecology of Human Reproduction. Annual review of anthropology”, Volume 27; 1998. * Faye Ginshburg and Rayna Rapp, “The Politics of Reproduction Source”, Annual Review of Anthropology, Volume 20, Annual Reviews Stable; 1991. * John A. Robertson, “Children of Choice: Freedom and the new reproductive technologies”, Princeton NJ, Princeton UP; 1994. * K. Rothenberg and E.
Thomson (eds. ) “Women and Prenatal testing: Facing the Challenges of Genetic technology”, Columbus OH: Ohio State University Press; 1994 * M. Strathern, “Reproducing the future: anthropology, kinship and the new reproductive technologies”, Manchester; 1992 * Marilyn Strathern, “Reproducing the Future: Essays on Anthropology, Kinship and the New Reproductive technologies”, New York: Routledge; 1992. * Rebecca Dresser, “Designing Babies”: Ethics and Human Research, Volume 26, Number 5, The Hastings Centre Stable; 2004.