EASA2014: Collaboration, Intimacy & Revolution

(P106)

Rethinking assisted conception: dynamics of law, morality and religion

Location S-232
Date and Start Time 01 August, 2014 at 09:00

Convenors

Sibylle Lustenberger (University of Bern) email
Shirin Garmaroudi Naef (University of Zurich) email
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Short Abstract

This panel explores the moral, theological and juridical logics embedded in the social uses of reproductive technologies.

Long Abstract

In the last decades many insightful studies gave evidence on how assisted reproductive technologies (ARTs) allow for the formation of new intimacies, and on the work necessary to circumscribe those relationships that count as kinship. Influenced by Schneider's critique, these studies have largely focused on questioning the seemingly 'natural' principles of human reproduction. By explicitly focusing on dynamics of law, morality and religion, the proposed panel shifts the spotlight on the structures and principles embedded in the social uses of reproductive technologies. What moral, theological and juridical logics underlie the concepts of kinship that move people when they turn to - or refrain from - certain technologies of assisted conception? And how are they contested and negotiated? We hope to discuss these and other questions in order to develop an understanding of reproductive technologies as means by which societies seek to guarantee social continuity. We welcome empirically or theoretically informed papers that do not shy away from reading across these domains. Topics might include but are not limited to: How can we conceptualize the relationship between science, morality and religion in the age of biotechnologies? How do people relate to religion as a resource to cope with vulnerability? How do lay people and experts use moral claims to justify or challenge fertility regimes and exclusions? And do new forms of social dynamics thereby emerge? What notions of belonging and proximity do such claims express?

Discussant: Roland Hardenberg (University of Tübingen)

This panel is closed to new paper proposals.

Papers

"Itsy bitsy gift of life": ART, gamete donation and children's identity rights in Poland

Author: Ewa Maciejewska-Mroczek (University of Warsaw)  email

Short Abstract

This paper explores moral, legal and religious contexts of children's identity rights related to ART in Poland. It discusses how ART, especially third-party reproduction, poses new questions on identity, especially when children's point of view is concerned.

Long Abstract

Rapid development of ART in the last decades has had some essential implications for new understanding of kinship, family, parenthood, etc. Little concern has been given so far to the way it may influence the identity of children who were born thanks to new reproductive technologies. The Convention on the Rights of the Child grants the right to identity to all children, but its understandings are often narrowed to the national identity. The origins related to ART, especially when third party reproduction is involved (i.e. gamete donation), are often a taboo ‒ in the intimate, family plan as well as in a broader society ‒ and are hidden from children. In Poland, the additional obstacle is the strong voice of Catholic church in the debate about IVF, which stigmatizes children and therefore, discourages adults from discussing identity issues with them. In the vivid debate on ART in Poland, little concern is given to the actual people who were born thanks to new reproductive technologies, and the meaning of this debate for them is often ignored. In this paper, I explore moral, legal and religious contexts of children's identity rights related to ART in Poland.

Beyond 'nature-culture': kinship and motherhood in light of egg donation and surrogacy in Iran

Author: Shirin Garmaroudi Naef (University of Zurich)  email

Short Abstract

This paper explores the moral juridical logic and reasoning underlying Shia conceptualisation of motherhood in the context of egg donation and surrogacy in Iran and their social applications.

Long Abstract

Assisted reproductive technologies including gamete and embryo donation as well as surrogacy are legal in Iran and are being practiced at Iranian infertility treatment clinics; this is while complying with the laws and regulations regarding its appropriate use has mainly been influenced by Shia juridical moral concerns, particularly with regards to the status of the in vitro human embryo, adultery, incest, marriage, filiation and kinship relations. My research has examined the Iranian debates over assisted reproductive technologies through multi-sited-ethnographic fieldwork conducted since 2005 in Iran combined with a textual approach. While a wide range of opinions exists, many Shia religious authorities consider the use of donated eggs and surrogacy as legitimate infertility treatments, albeit only for heterosexual infertile married couples. In the case of egg donation and surrogacy, the majority of Shia opinion ascribes the maternity to the originator of the egg while some other ascribe it to the woman who gives birth to the child; and, some suggest that the child should be considered to have two real mothers. In this paper, I will primarily analyse these religious legal discourse and focus on the Shia conceptual models of motherhood. I will then address the social uses of this juridical permissibility of assisted reproduction by way of exploring the experiences of egg donation and surrogacy amongst either Iranian women or women from other Muslim-majority countries like Iraq and Afghanistan seeking infertility treatments in Iran.

Encounters with mamzerim: Rabbinic kinship concepts and the formation of same-sex parenthood

Author: Sibylle Lustenberger (University of Bern)  email

Short Abstract

Israeli gay men circumvent rabbinic restrictions and become fathers through surrogacy abroad. This paper explores the entanglement of kinship, religion and politics, as it structures these men’s path to parenthood far away from home.

Long Abstract

In Israel, religious belonging constitutes a central category of citizenship. Religious authorities control marriage and divorce, and laws regulating reproductive technologies are strongly informed by Orthodox rabbinic kinship concepts. These provisions secure that Jewish men and women bring into being children who are unequivocally Jewish themselves. They form part of a policy that seeks to reproduce the Jewish-Israeli collective and its boundaries. Same-sex parenthood does not exist in rabbinic kinship thinking. But lesbian women and gay men have gained a wide range of family rights by means of litigation in civil courts. While many of them do not live their lives according to Jewish law, rabbinic kinship concepts also structure their paths to parenthood.

The proposed paper focuses on the encounters of gay couples with mamzerim, the rabbinic concept of blemished children. Having no other options, these men become fathers through surrogacy abroad. A chain of bureaucratic steps allows them to register their children as Israeli citizens. The chain is long and cumbersome because of legal provisions that aim at preventing the creation of mamzerim. Paradoxically, the Orthodox rabbinate does neither count these children as Jewish nor does it recognize the family unions, gay couples and their children form. Hence, the rabbinic concept of mamzerim seems rather out of place. Accordingly, for gay men these strange encounters prove religious coercion and backwardness. For me they provide an opportunity to discuss the entanglement of kinship, religion and politics in reproductive contexts beyond the norm.

The fabrication of kinship: medically assisted reproduction, law, religion and changing notions of relatedness among Orthodox Christians in Greece

Authors: Ivi Daskalaki (University of the Aegean)  email
Venetia Kantsa (University of the Aegean)  email

Short Abstract

This paper discusses altering perceptions of relatedness associated with medically assisted reproduction among Orthodox Christians in Greece. It explores the medical, legal and cultural inducement for assisted reproduction in Greece in relation to religious discourses on ‘accepted’ forms of kinship.

Long Abstract

The cultural significance of parenthood in Greece is widely reported in the ethnographic literature. In such a context, assisted reproduction is viewed as a means to facilitate the fulfillment of personal goals and provides an answer to nationalist concerns regarding low fertility and birth rate. In 1983 the first IVF baby was born and by 2006 more than 50 assisted reproduction clinics and medical centers existed according to the European IVF-monitoring (EIM) Consortium for the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology (ESHRE). Legislation and regulation in Greece allows for preimplantation genetic diagnosis, embryo freezing, anonymous sperm and egg donation, embryo donation and surrogacy, research on genetic material and gives access to these technologies to married and non-married heterosexual couples and single women, giving Greece one of the most "liberal" profiles among European countries.

The proposed paper examines the medical, legal and cultural inducement for assisted reproduction in relation to official and unofficial religious discourses surrounding medical reproduction. Drawing on ongoing ethnographic research the paper discusses the official position of the Greek Orthodox Church regarding assisted reproduction technologies and juxtaposes this position with discourses concerning traditional and new forms of kinship elaborated by Orthodox women and men who have sought medically assisted fertility treatment. It demonstrates that most of the informants assess their actions to overcome infertility as well as the available range of medically assisted fertility treatments on the basis of a "personal" moral code that accepts or rejects certain forms of kinship or relatedness.

The fertile New Ancient Macedonian body

Author: Ilka Thiessen (Vancouver Island University)  email

Short Abstract

A growing Christian-Orthodox ethnocracy in Macedonia is creating a new socio-political order of ‘Ancient Macedonia’. Fertility clinics conspire, through gamete control, in creating new citizens for the 'cradle of European Civilisation.'

Long Abstract

With my talk I will introduce the issue of reproductive control of a growing ethnocracy in the Republika Makedonija. The nationalistic government (VMRO) won on a political  platform that denounced EU countries, foremost Greece, as mere impostors of the European spirit. VMRO politicians argue hat the true Europe can only be carried forward by the 'true' descendants of Alexander the Great. These 'true' descendants are living solely within the borders of Makedonija according to DNA tests in 2008 run by a Swiss lab (iGenea), their ethnic marker is that they are Christian-Orthodox, not Muslim-Albanian, a minority within Macedonia who fights for recognition. Since then six private fertility clinics were built, sponsored or supported by the nationalist party. These fertility clinics create life for a new Makedonija simultaneously invoked by explicit state policies, statements by politicians and religious leaders, and re-inscriptions in schoolbooks and the city-scape. I will show how gametes are being used to re-create the cradle of European civilization. Therefore, I argue that fertility clinics support Macedonia's ethnocracy through subtle policy; doctors selecting sperm from Denmark and Spain for its 'colour' unknown to the patients, prevention of a Macedonian sperm bank that could store 'Balkan,' 'Muslim,' 'non-civilized' sperm; privatization of modern, clean and sophisticated C-sections; hence creating European children in the context of Macedonia's nation building. I will discuss policies and thoughts of professionals and patients alike in order to understand how people today are destined by gametes in the contemporary world.

This panel is closed to new paper proposals.