Assisted reproductive technologies (ARTs) are usually used to treat infertility. One of the most common technologies is in vitro fertilization (IVF), an ART procedure in which sperm and eggs are joined outside the body, and the resulting embryo is transferred to a uterus in an effort to establish a pregnancy. Surrogacy is another form of assisted reproduction that involves a woman who agrees, as a third party, to be impregnated with, gestate, and deliver the embryo of another couple or person, often in exchange for payment.
Although ARTs help some people find new avenues to have the children they’ve always wanted, they can pose significant safety risks that are often overlooked. For instance, extracting eggs from the body typically involves taking hormonal drugs to promote the simultaneous development of multiple eggs. This is true whether the eggs are for one’s own IVF treatment, for someone else’s, or to provide materials for researchers. Yet evidence about the severity and extent of risks from egg retrieval is widely recognized as inadequate. A common short-term risk is ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome (OHSS). This is often a mild reaction, but it can become serious enough to require hospitalization and, in rare cases, can cause death.
There is also strong concern about the common imbalances of power among the parties involved in assisted reproduction, particularly because policies pertaining to third-party assisted reproduction vary widely. Some jurisdictions prohibit surrogacy while others limit compensation to expenses and lost wages. In a number of U.S. states and a few other areas, surrogacy is permitted as a market transaction, often with little or no oversight. This has led some prospective parents to leave their own countries in order to avoid regulations or to save money, a phenomenon known as “cross-border reproductive care” or “reproductive tourism.”