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About Reproductive Justice, Health, Rights & Human Biotechnology


Many applications of human biotechnologies, especially those involving reproduction, involve women's bodies. As these technologies are developed and used, women's well-being must be a central concern and reproductive rights must be firmly protected.

Assisted reproduction technologies have helped many people who otherwise could not have become parents of biologically related children. But these technologies tend to be costly and invasive. Their success rates, though improving, are still low. Most important, the long-term risks to women and children have not been well studied. Treating infertility has become a highly competitive business, and the field itself is notoriously under-regulated. Many experimental techniques are put into clinical use before they are adequately tested.

Other social, ethical, and practical concerns have also been raised: payments to encourage economically vulnerable women to provide eggs for other women's fertility treatment or to become surrogates; the increasing number of fertility clinics that offer social sex selection; and other forms of screening, testing, and selecting embryos. More radical reproductive technologies such as reproductive cloning and inheritable genetic modification (changing the genes we pass on to our children) are being used in animals, and though clearly dangerous, are being contemplated for use by humans.

It is not uncommon for those advocating these technologies to appropriate the language of reproductive choice to argue that parents should have the "right" to choose their children's characteristics. But as an increasing number of reproductive rights leaders point out, there are important differences between choosing when and whether to bear a child and creating a child with specified traits.

Advocates of technologies that would pre-determine the traits of future generations argue that these are "enhancements" that would improve the lives of children. But in addition to serious physical risks, significant social and psychological hazards are likely. Children born with pre-selected traits would come into the world expected to look, act, and perform according to specifications. Unreasonable and unfulfilled parental expectations can certainly flourish without these technologies, but expectations grounded in scientific claims and expensive procedures would likely be far more pronounced.



Private Hospitals Carrying Out Illegal Gender SelectionSaudi GazetteDecember 18th, 2014Private Saudi hospitals are providing preconception sex selection procedures. Many wives fear their husbands will replace them if they do not conceive a boy.
Cell Free DNA Screening is not a Simple Blood TestSociety for Maternal Fetal MedicineDecember 18th, 2014By its very nature, a screening test does not tell with 100% certainty whether or not a fetus will be affected by a given disorder.
Prenatal Tests: Oversold and Misunderstoodby George Estreich, Biopolitical Times guest contributorDecember 16th, 2014A scathing investigative report on the accuracy of noninvasive prenatal testing is likely to shift the terms of this important conversation.
Have New Prenatal Tests Been Dangerously Oversold?by Beth DaleyNew England Center for Investigative ReportingDecember 12th, 2014Many prenatal testing companies promise more than they can deliver. Two studies show that results can be a false alarm half of the time.
Commercialisation and the Moral Obligation to Create 'Designer' Babiesby John GallowayBioNewsDecember 8th, 2014Julian Savulescu made the case for a new 'eugenics', without ever using the word, at Progress Educational Trust's 2014 annual conference.
Sperm Donor, Life Partnerby Alana SemuelsThe AtlanticDecember 8th, 2014Just because women can create and raise a baby alone doesn't mean they want to. An increasing number of women and lesbian couples are seeking an involved father for a donor.
Deceptive Labeling of a Radical Embryo Construction Techniqueby Stuart A. NewmanThe Huffington PostDecember 1st, 2014The British Parliament appears poised to give the go-ahead to a set of techniques for generating infants which, if implemented, would constitute the first cases of large-scale human genetic engineering.
Thailandís Parliament Approves Bill Banning Commercial surrogacyAssociated Press in BangkokNovember 28th, 2014The decision follows several surrogacy scandals this year, including one in which an Australian couple left behind a baby with Down syndrome.
Peru Forcibly Sterilized 300,000 Poor Women in the '90s. Now They Could Decide the Country's Future.by Iain AitchNew RepublicNovember 26th, 2014A new interactive documentary made in Peru may just help decide the political future of the whole country.
The Vagina Bio-Hack That Wasn't: How Two 'Startup Bros' Twisted the 'Sweet Peach' Missionby Jessica CussinsThe Huffington PostNovember 26th, 2014Two male biotech CEOs announced they had created a bio-hack to make women's vaginas smell like peaches. It turns out they did not even create 'Sweet Peach,' and they got it all wrong.
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