10th Anniversary Baby Markets Congress
Posted by Elliot Hosman on April 7th, 2016
|Baby Markets: Money and the New Politics of Creating Families (Cambridge University Press 2010, 1st ed., ed. Michele Goodwin)|
“We can only assess the justice of baby markets by stripping away the veneer of ‘freedom,’” said Dorothy Roberts at the Baby Markets International Congress, which met April 1-3 in Southern California. The meeting celebrated the 10th anniversary of the Baby Markets Roundtables series founded by Michele Goodwin, Chancellor’s Professor at UC Irvine Law School, author of Baby Markets (2010), and founder of the Center for Biotechnology and Global Health Policy.
For three days, panelists and participants engaged with assisted reproductive technologies (ARTs), reproductive justice, contractual parentage and procreation relationships, genetic testing and selection of embryos, gestational and transnational surrogacy, in vitro fertilization, abortion laws, constitutional rights to procreation and assisted reproduction, LGBT access to adoption and ARTs, selective reduction, and fertility professional negligence.
@DorothyERoberts "baby markets aren't free" keynote address at #BabyMarkets2016 @UCILaw @UCIrvine @Penn pic.twitter.com/7K9AC45Joo
The keynote address by Dorothy Roberts, professor of law and sociology at the University of Pennsylvania and CGS advisory board member, painted a rich picture of the complex systems of oppression that backdrop free trade reproduction. Roberts highlighted the wide-ranging reproductive injustices of abortion bans, neoliberal public healthcare disinvestment in the United States, dependency courts and disruptions of families of color, and centuries of ongoing racism that make it impossible for baby markets to be “liberating” for women of color.
Roberts also reflected on the “new eugenics” that pressures parents to make “the right genetic decisions,” leading to the widespread use of pre-implantation genetic diagnosis to select against disability, and the support of a few enthusiasts to attempt next-generation genetic engineering with CRISPR-Cas9 to “edit” the traits of future children. Roberts concluded that debates on the ethics of commercial assisted reproduction must center the people hurt most by market logics: people of color, disabled persons, transgender and intersex persons, and people acting as surrogates. “We can’t solve social problems with better technology,” she said.
Marcy Darnovsky, executive director of CGS, and Radhika Rao, professor of law at UC Hastings, separately introduced emerging technologies in reproduction that heighten a number of ongoing concerns about eugenics, informed consent, and elite access to what Roberts earlier referred as a “reproductive caste system” of “built” children. These new technologies include egg freezing, uterine transplants, gametogenesis (stem cell-derived artificial gametes), and CRISPR-Cas9 germline gene editing.
The ART Working Group’s Reproductive Justice panel
The ART Working Group, a collaborative effort between CGS and the Pro-Choice Alliance for Responsible Research (PCARR) that grew out of The Tarrytown Meetings, organized a panel introduced by CGS consultant Emily Galpern that focused on reproductive justice insights into assisted reproduction. UC Davis Professor of Law and CGS fellow Lisa Ikemoto discussed her research on egg providers and the “repro-stratification” of eggs based primarily on race. She noted that “currently we use ARTs to reproduce the nuclear family,” instead of collaborative reproduction marked by reciprocity and kinship.
PCARR co-founder Susan Berke Fogel gave an overview of reproductive justice, focusing on the centrality of women of color in the movement, and the shift away from the reproductive rights conversation about “choice” and privacy toward a holistic understanding of “justice” that looks at oppression and intersectionality, and that doesn’t privilege reproductive rights over other rights.
Daisy Deomampo, assistant professor of anthropology at Fordham University, presented research looking at surrogacy and the treatment of intended parents and gestational surrogates in India as a site of racialization that isn’t just “reflective” of oppressive racial hierarchies in the world, but which produces race. She noted that reproductive justice seeks to change structural inequalities, instead of liberating individuals from experiencing them.
Regina Tamés Noriega from the Grupo de Información en Reproducción Elegida (GIRE) in Mexico discussed the recent expansion of transnational surrogacy in Tabasco and Cancún. She described policymakers’ sudden focus on regulating surrogacy despite their lack of interest in regulating other forms of assisted reproduction, potentially because it represents a way to control women’s bodies.
Reproductive Justice Film Festival
The 10th Baby Markets Congress also included a Reproductive Justice Film Festival. Three documentary films were screened during the weekend:
Misconception (forthcoming), dir. Civia Tamarkin, showcases the “collateral damage” and “friendly fire” of the abortion wars, and the political indoctrination of youth into the anti-abortion movement.
Young Lakota (2012), dirs. Rose Rosenblatt and Marion Lipschutz, follows three youth living on the Pine Ridge reservation of the Oglala Sioux tribe who experience political awakenings around the issue of abortion.
Beautiful Sin (2014), dir. Gabriela Quirós, documents the political battle around embryo personhood and assisted reproduction in Costa Rica. A ban on IVF that passed in 2000 was finally lifted by a presidential decree ruled valid by the Inter-American Court on Human Rights in February 2016.
We learned so much from the fascinating papers, discussions, and research presented by the scholars, policy-makers, civil society advocates, journalists, and activists in attendance. Thanks to Michele Goodwin and all the participants!
About the Baby Markets Organizer and Sponsors
Michele Bratcher Goodwin’s research engages law’s interaction with the body across multiple spheres, encompassing organ transplantation, reproduction, tissue harvesting, sex and marriage trafficking, and international surrogacy, among other topics. Goodwin recently edited The Global Body Market: Altruism’s Limits, published in 2013.
The International Congress was supported by generous contributions from the University of California, Irvine Medical Humanities Initiative, School of Law, and donors: Greg Rose and Pat Wilson, and co-sponsors: Center on Globalization, Law, and Society (GLAS); Department of Criminology, Law and Society; Department of Gender and Sexuality Studies; Program in Public Health; Reproductive Justice Initiative; and School of Social Ecology.
Previously on Biopolitical Times:
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Canadian Eugenics Survivor and Activist Leilani Muir Dies at Age 71
Posted by Natalie Oveyssi on April 7th, 2016
Leilani (O'Malley) Muir, a survivor of the Sexual Sterilization Act of Alberta, Canada, passed away on the weekend of March 12 at the age of 71.
Following an abusive childhood, Muir’s mother committed her to Alberta's Provincial Training School for Mental Defectives at the age of eleven, falsely claiming that she had cognitive disabilities. The Sexual Sterilization Act of Alberta allowed the province to sterilize any ward of a mental health institution whom its Eugenics Board considered "mentally defective" and at risk of transmitting “defective genes” to future children.
Under this act, nearly 3,000 residents of Alberta were sterilized between 1928 and 1972, when the law was finally repealed.
When she was fourteen years old, Muir was brought before the Provincial Eugenics Board and briefly questioned. After this session, the board recommended sterilization, citing as the reason "Danger of the transmission to the progeny of Mental Deficiency or Disability, also incapable of Intelligent parenthood."
Told doctors would be removing her appendix, Muir was sterilized without her knowledge. She only learned what had happened to her many years later when she and her husband were unable to conceive a child.
She grew determined to achieve justice for herself and others impacted by forced sterilization. In 1996, Leilani Muir became the first individual to sue the Alberta government for wrongful sterilization. She won her case, Muir v. The Queen in Right of Alberta, in a judgment that stated:
The circumstances of Ms. Muir's sterilization were so high-handed and so contemptuous of the statutory authority to effect sterilization, and were taken in an atmosphere that so little respected Ms. Muir's human dignity that the community's, and the court's, sense of decency is offended.Muir's case served as a precedent for many more lawsuits against the Alberta government on behalf of hundreds of survivors of eugenic sterilization. All told, the government paid more than $80 million to over 800 survivors.
In the years following the court decision, Muir became an advocate for other sterilization survivors and for the rights of people with disabilities. She continued her quest to educate the public about the history of eugenics in Canada. Muir wrote a book about her life called A Whisper Past, gave talks around the country, appeared in several documentaries and television programs, and even ran for a seat on the Alberta legislature in 2000 as a New Democratic Party candidate. Muir was recently featured in the 2015 documentary Surviving Eugenics which documents the survivor narratives of Alberta’s provincial schools.
Muir said of her experiences:
When I was born, God made me a whole person. When they sterilized me, they made me half a person. You never get over that hurt. . . . I don't want this to ever happen again to other children. My philosophy is that history repeats, but as long as I keep talking about it, it will not happen again.
Leilani Muir will be remembered for her courage to speak out, her strength to fight, and her determination to seek a more just world.
1. About Leilani, Leilani Muir: My Story Will Inspire You.
2. Dambrofsky, Gwen. Alberta woman who successfully sued province for wrongful sterilization dies, Global News, March 16, 2016.
3. Eugenics, Canada's Human Rights History.
4. Muir, Leilani. A Whisper Past: Childless After Eugenic Sterilization in Alberta. Victoria, BC, Canada: Friesen Press, 2014.
5. Muir v. The Queen in Right of Alberta. 132 D.L.R (4th) 695. Court File No. 8903 20759 Edmonton. Alberta Court of Queen's Bench. Veit, J. January 25, 1996.
Previously on Biopolitical Times:
Will California Expand the Market for Women’s Eggs?
Posted by Marcy Darnovsky on April 7th, 2016
Currently, California – like many countries – allows women who provide eggs for research to be reimbursed for travel, lost wages, child care, and other expenses connected to the egg retrieval process, but not to be paid beyond that.
A bill sponsored by the American Society for Reproductive Medicine, the fertility industry organization, would overturn that policy, and allow researchers to pay thousands of dollars beyond reimbursement for women’s eggs.
Despite opposition from women’s health and public interest organizations, including the Center for Genetics and Society, AB 2531 sailed through the state’s Assembly Health Committee on April 5 with a 17-0 vote. It now goes to the Assembly floor, and after than to the state Senate.
What’s wrong with expanding the market for women’s eggs? After all, women are allowed to sell their eggs for other people’s fertility treatments. Here are key reasons it’s important to hold the line:
AB 2531 would overturn an existing California law, authored in 2006 by then-state Senator Deborah Ortiz, a well-known champion of women’s health and medical research. It would also conflict with guidelines from the National Academy of Sciences, and with the rules of the California stem cell agency. All these policies state that women who undergo egg retrieval for research can be compensated for their expenses, but not paid beyond that.
- The health risks of egg harvesting are significant, but they’re woefully under-studied. A well-known and fairly common short-term problem is ovarian hyper-stimulation syndrome (OHSS), but no one is sure how many women get the serious – sometimes life-threatening – version of it. Data on long-term outcomes, including follow-up studies on reports of cancers and infertility in egg providers, are notoriously inadequate.
- It is impossible for women to give truly informed consent if adequate health and safety information can’t be provided.
- Offering large sums of money encourages women in need to gamble with their health. It’s what bioethicists call "undue inducement."
- Women who provide eggs are not research subjects, despite the inaccuracy in AB 2531. In clinical studies, researchers follow the health outcomes of participants. In egg retrieval procedures, researchers are interested in acquiring eggs for raw material for their studies, not in effects on women who provide them.
This isn’t the first time the fertility industry has sponsored legislation to expand the market for eggs. An almost identical bill was vetoed by Governor Brown in 2013. His veto message said in part,
"Not everything in life is for sale, nor should it be....The long-term risks are not adequately known. Putting thousands of dollars on the table only compounds the problem." Letters of opposition to AB 2531 were sent by these organizations and individuals:
Previously on Biopolitical Times:
Ma Na Sapna – A Mother’s Dream
Posted by Gabriele Werner-Felmayer & Carmel Shalev, Biopolitical Times guest contributors on March 23rd, 2016
Valerie Gudenus was inspired to make her award-winning film on surrogacy in India, Ma Na Sapna – A Mother’s Dream(2013), by American sociologist Arlie Russell Hochschild’s work on the outsourcing of emotional services (The Outsourced Self: What Happens When We Pay Others to Live Our Lives for Us, 2012). As Gudenus says in an interview, she wanted to make a film about “how different worlds and different areas are connected through certain dependencies.” Following one month of research in India on her own, she and her team went there to shoot the film in the world’s largest surrogacy clinic: the Akanksha clinic, in Anand, Gujarat run by Dr. Nayna Patel. Indeed, the film shows surrogacy as an “amazing example of worlds being connected in a very interesting way” (Gudenus).
The clinic had already taken center stage in Zippi Brand Frank’s documentary Google Baby (2009), and it was key to sociologist Amrita Pande’s in-depth ethnographic work Wombs in Labor (2014) on transnational commercial surrogacy in India. Despite this existing coverage, Gudenus brings a new and sensitive view of the surrogate mothers who are otherwise largely invisible – whether in the public perception or to the customers from abroad whose babies they carry – and allows them to speak for themselves.Over a period of three months, Gudenus and her team spent every day with the women either at the Akanksha clinic or in the home for surrogates which it runs in a secluded by-road. The film opens with Madhu, a surrogacy "scout" who recruits women to become surrogates. Heena donated eggs four times to pay grocery bills, and she wants to buy a small hut for her daughter. She is one of six women the film follows. They live in the home with 70 others, many divorced or widowed, in close quarters that at one dramatic moment brings about a verbally violent fight.
Sometimes Dr. Patel (pictured above, far left) comes to visit. The distance between her and the women is tangible. She is the professional doctor, a powerful business woman who reigns benevolently over her domain and insists the surrogates learn to sign their names before they leave. The women call her "our mother goddess" and bow in reverence and gratitude to touch her feet. They are in service, living in confinement far from their own children, lying on their backs most of the time, subject to strict quality control with regimens of nutrition and invasive medical procedures, including hormonal injections throughout the pregnancy and 100% rates of cesarean delivery.
At some moments, it becomes evident that not everything is as the women expected. Bikhi (pictured below), for example, is carrying a triplet pregnancy. Three months into the pregnancy she is shocked and heartbroken to learn that the doctors want her to undergo embryo reduction. If she had known about the reductions, she says, she would not have come here. “That a child will be killed in my own womb is really shocking.” To her relief, ultrasound shows that two of the fetuses are conjoined twins already dead.
Gudenus and cinematographer Gabriela Betschart created a gentle and respectful intimacy with the women whose stories they follow, without being intrusive. The film captures the atmosphere of a woman’s cosmos that seems quasi-intrauterine yet situated within a technologized environment of breeding. The sound track brings in the noises of machines beeping in the neonatal intensive care unit, and the clacking of plastic breast milk pumps in the wards where the women recover after giving birth.
Papiha (pictured below) is a central character. We see her first at an ultrasound test toward the end of her pregnancy. The camera focuses on her rather than on the screen. She is carrying twins and is told that they both weigh more than 2 kilograms. Her face shows she is proud and happy. Later she gives birth to twins, half drugged with partial anesthesia. Someone asks her: "What will you do with the money?" She answers, "I'll buy a house." Then she is left alone in the delivery room, sprawled on the surgical bed like a bundle of rags. "Her" couple will arrive only 3 weeks later, with the reason for the delay unclear. Perhaps they are advised to wait, to make sure the babies survive and are healthy. Perhaps they were busy with their lives.
After five days she is pumping milk, which her husband takes to the infants. He wants a rickshaw, and that's what they get. Madhu says there are no houses available for the money the women earn, not any more, even in a slum.
After ten days, Papiha goes to have a look at the babies and hold them for the first time. One of them stops crying when she picks her up. A few days later she is taking care of them in her room, and she names them. When it appears they are not gaining weight she starts breastfeeding. But she says, "it's better not to think I'm their mother" because it would make her sad. When Papiha's couple finally arrive, the situation is awkward. They seem not to know what to say or how to thank her. She changes their nappies for the last time, obviously in inner conflict. The intended mother (pictured below, right) tells her "don't cry, come on, smile, visit us tomorrow at the hotel" but it is obvious that this is good bye.
Parul also stays for three weeks to give milk and is not happy when she departs. She says she gained money but lost the respect of her neighbors and friends. Her son stopped talking to her. The job is "bad:" it's seen as selling children even though it's legal with stamped papers.
“How can you make a film about somebody else’s feelings?” asks Valerie Gudenus in the interview. Well, you obviously can, if you are able to look and listen as carefully and sensitively to the stories of others as she did. Understanding and showing that there is a mother's dream for a better life is the way in which Ma Na Sapna gives so-called ‘surrogates’ a face, a voice and a touching human story.
 The condition is rare with only a few case reports and seems to be
connected to in vitro manipulations causing trauma of the zona
pellucida. Usually, the pregnancy of the unaffected fetus goes on
without further complications. See Hirata T. et al. Conjoined twins in a
triplet pregnancy after intracytoplasmic sperm injection and
blastocyst transfer: case report and review of the literature. Fertil
Steril 2009;91:933.e9–e12, doi:10.1016/j.fertnstert.2008.07.1730
Gabriele Werner-Felmayer is Associate Professor of Medical Biochemistry at Medical University Innsbruck working at the intersection between basic biomedical research and bioethics, and chairs the bioethics network Ethucation [Austrian unit of the International Network, UNESCO Chair in Bioethics (Haifa)].
Carmel Shalev is the founding chair of the Department for Reproduction and Society at the International Center for Health, Law and Ethics, Haifa University, and a member of Israel's National Bioethics Council.
Images via Ma Na Sapna and Akanksha Clinic