Reproduction. Do It Yourself
In some societies a child is considered to be “priceless” however, the global fertility market (since the 1990s) has led to the commodification of reproductive capacities, bodily tissues, body parts and babies.
Sociologists have observed that reproduction has morphed into a product engaging consumers/ buyers and sellers. Just as other services have been outsourced to low-wage countries to reduce costs within a global commodity chain, reproductive labor is frequently outsourced in global fertility chains to women living in deprived socioeconomic conditions in low-wage economies to reduce the price for a baby conceived with the help of a third party.
Is It Ethical?
Even if it is legal is fertility tourism ethical or just another variation of the increasing marketization of everyday life and body? When considering the history of wet nursing, adoption and child trafficking, the baby market is nothing new; however, there is a profound growth in the trade for human bodies, body parts and body resources, including the bodies of babies. What has made this possible? Technology, the rise of cheap air travel, new forms of communication and information and the accumulation of biocapital has increased the speed in the trade of bodies, body parts and babies across borders.
Controversy has surrounded the use of assisted reproduction technologies (ART) since it was initiated. Almost every aspect of the process/procedures have been controversial including the initial use of artificial insemination with donor sperm (AID) to the use of fertility drugs to increase the frequency of multiple births, to in vitro fertilization (IVF) permitting conception outside the human body.
The Catholic Church identifies human dignity with conception by a married couple within a woman’s body and therefore opposes IVF and government support of IVF. Other organizations express concern about the health effects of fertility drugs, the hormones used in IVF, the increased incidence of multiples and other ART practices.
The combination of religious objections to the procedures and concern that government intervention would result in restrictive measures, ART has not been included in insurance schemes and has limited the research that would contribute to better understanding of the long-term health risks with these procedures.
Increased competition and fertility tourism has expanded the availability of services by making them affordable and making it easier to evade ethical restrictions that limit the availability of controversial services. In the United States the “Dickey Amendment” is attached to every Health and Human Services appropriation bill since 1996 and forbids federal funding for “research in which a human embryo or embryos are destroyed, discarded or knowingly subjected to risk of injury or death.”
As fertility travelers scan the globe looking for the “best package,” putting a price on human life, looking at conception as a business transaction, ethical considerations enter the conversation. In addition, the for-profit clinics working in a competitive market environment may cut corners in their desire to recruit more patients. Others view the fertility clinics as models of good business practices for they offer patients informed choices with transparent pricing, allowing clients to select their preferred course of treatment.