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Surrogacy as a New Reproductive Technologies

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In today’s society, family and relatedness come in many different forms. The family unit has become much more complex due to a range of factors. One factor being new reproductive technologies. New reproductive technologies have been introduced in order to facilitate, prevent or otherwise intervene the process of reproduction. These technologies are used in human and animal reproduction, including artificial insemination, cloning, contraception and IVF.

The traditional family has always been considered as being physically related through biological ties such as blood, genes and DNA. However, relatedness can be affected by social ties, affinal ties and even legal ties. Supporters of the genetic theory believe that genes and genetic information is transmitted from both parents to their offspring making them biologically related and seen as ‘family’. Furthermore, the hematogenic theory divides males and females, regarding males as ‘superior’ with higher blood heat and women as ‘inferior’ with lower body heat. This theory links relatedness to the parents from blood; the male’s blood is transformed into sperm while the females blood is transferred into menstrual blood and milk. It suggests that the embryo is formed by the mother’s ‘raw matter’ menstrual blood and the father’s sperm which provides raw matter form and a soul. The male’s ‘raw matter’ is an active agent of generation and the females ‘raw mater’ of menstrual blood and the mother’s milk are passive nourishing substances. People view themselves as mutually related because they share a common substance, making them kin. ‘A system of social ties based on acknowledging genealogical relations”, (Holly, 1996) defines kinship. Kinship can be determined depending on the common substances that relate individuals. Individuals who share substances such as blood, bone or semen, determine ‘nature kinship’ and those who share substances of food and milk determine ‘nurture kinship’. In addition, we can group those we recognise as kin into consanguines (related by blood) and affines (related by marriage).

Infertility is a condition of the reproductive system that prevents the conception of children, one in 4 U.S couples have difficulty getting pregnant as a result of 40% female factors, 40% male factors and 20% a combination of both. Infertility is a devastating issue that many couples have to face, and this problem has increased in recent years. Take China for example, infertility rate was at 1-3% in the early 1980’s but at present day, China’s infertility rate is at 8-10%. In relation to the increasing infertility rate, the number of assisted reproductive technology centres registered with the Ministry of Health have also increased; as there were only 5 in 2001 but within a few years these numbers had increased to just over 2000 in 2009. In efforts to relieve the devastation and anxieties caused by infertility, New Reproductive Technologies (NRT) have been presented as a solution. One of the main NRT used is In Vitro Fertilisation (IVF), IVF is the process of removing a woman’s eggs from her ovaries to be fertilised with a sperm, this is done in a laboratory. Once fertilised, the embryo is returned to the woman’s womb where it will grow and develop, creating a baby. Another form of the New Reproductive Technologies is surrogacy, there are two types of surrogacy; traditional surrogacy and gestational surrogacy. Traditional surrogacy is when the surrogate mother’s own eggs are used for the creation of the child that she will carry on behalf of intended parents or individual, in this case the sperm used to create embryo may be the intended father’s or donor sperm. Gestational surrogacy is when the surrogate mother has no genetic relationship to the child that she is carrying. An embryo created with the intended parent’s eggs and sperm or from either egg donor or sperm donor will be transferred into the surrogate’s mother’s womb. These processes are can dramatically change people’s lives by giving them the opportunity to expand their family and continue their lineage, due to numerous successful cases, more and more families who desire to expand their family with a child but are unfortunately are unable to turn to NRT. ‘The Lovely Louise’ was the first ever successful ‘test tube baby’, born in Great Britain in 1978, the new reproductive technologies had advanced to produce its very first child as a result of in vitro fertilization (IVF). Since then, the ‘Lovely Louise’ is now one of 8 million ‘test tube babies’. IVF is a reproductive technology under high demand, in the UK alone, 60,000-70,000 IVF treatments are performed each year. However, while IVF have presented many families with the gift of new life into their families there have also been extreme cases due to mix-ups. For example, in 2013, a mix-up in a fertility clinic in Italy resulted in a custody battle over twin babies who were accidently implanted into the wrong mother. This proves that the New Reproductive Technologies are not completely reliable or accurate just yet, also due to being relatively new there have not been enough examples in order to make rules for just scenarios. In this case of the mix-up in Italy, no one knew who should get custody, the biological parents or the mother who grew them inside her for 9 months, who protected them and loved them as she believed they were her own. This caused much unnecessary stress emotionally for both the biological parents and the birth mother.

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These New Reproduction Technologies are very controversial. The NRT create biological and social complexities in relation to the concepts of kinship. They generate blurred lines in distinguishing between social and biological parenthood, (Taylor, 2005). In particular, certain cultures and religions have opposing views on new reproductive technologies as it confuses the status of relatedness. For example, the Muslim world have openly refused the advances of reproductive technologies because of their attitudes towards family formation which has been instructed by religious teachings. in Muslim religious groups, the notion of family is very special as biological descent and inheritance is extremely important. Therefore, many Muslims believe if an individual or couple experience infertility, that was god’s plan for them. Nasab which means lineage or blood relation is recognised to be one of God’s greatest gifts to his worshippers, and so it would be immoral to diminish the biological connection between parents and child. As a result of these teaching, gamete donation and adoption are prohibited as solutions to infertility in the Sunni Muslim World. However, these infertility solutions are now accepted in two Middle Eastern countries dominated by Shi’ite Muslim populations, Iran and Lebanon. Although accepted, most Muslim men continue to refuse both adoption and gamete donation due to the fact that Shi’ite beliefs consider adoption as morally illicit and semen donation is not accepted and so Shi’ite men argue that such child ‘won’t be my son’, (Inhorn, 2006). In the case of seeking to overcome infertility by these new reproductive technologies the adopted or donor child would be recognised as illegitimate which is highlighted in numerous Islamic scriptures emphasising that blood relations as the only basis for paternity. While donation of semen is not accepted in Shi’ite culture, egg donations are accepted under ‘mutca’, which is a ‘temporary marriage agreement’. This action affects the family formation as it intervenes with the sacred matrimony. ‘Mutca’ is a union between an unmarried Muslim woman and a married or unmarried Muslim man, those involved agree on a fixed period of time for the union and in return the voluntary Muslim woman receives economic compensation for their eggs and the temporary marriage – this is sealed with a contract, (Inhorn, 2006. Pg 19-20). In addition, the process of using New Reproductive Technologies in the Muslim world presents the question whether the child will be named after the ‘social’ father or the donar, and whose inheritance will they receive. The ‘purity of lineage’ in Muslim societies is very significant within their religious teachings and so many Muslim men feel very strongly against sperm donation as a means to fathering a child. Shaikh Khamanei, a Muslim man declared that he would rather not have a child at all than raise a child that was not his, claiming that it ‘complicate your life’. He also made concerns about how to behave around a female child when she turns 15/16 because he would be able to marry her as she is not his biological daughter. Therefore, he agrees that it would be very difficult to accept sperm donation.

In addition, surrogacy is another form of New Reproductive Technologies which offers infertile couples the gift of parenthood. Surrogacy is a complex and expensive technique, the donation of eggs is very a difficult, vexing and tiresome process which can put the donor at risk both physically and emotionally. A series of medical treatments must be carried out a month prior. Treatments involve hormonal stimulation to allow the donor to produce more than one ovum per cycle, then surgery must be carried out to remove their ova. The egg donor produces a different form of kinship and relatedness which has been described as moving away from a biologically understood genealogy. Egg donors donate genealogically meaningful parts of their bodies without reproducing genealogical bonds, (Orobitg & Salazar, 2005). It is very common of couples who turn to NRT as a solution to infertility to worry about the connection and relationship that they will develop with their intended child. Anxieties about developing ‘unconditional love’ and ‘special bond’ with their child can be very emotionally pressing. However, there is no guide for donors on how to deal with giving away the child that has been a part of her. A case study in a fertility clinic in Barcelona investigated this and tried to see NRT from their perspectives.

To conclude, the relationship between a child and their biological parents is considered ‘the basis of all kinship’, and the relationship between child and mother is seen as the ‘unique and irreducible source of all existence” (Fortes, 1978, p. 21). This concept may not be valued in some cultures, but kinship in the UK is based on reproductive ties, making children’s kin determined solely through their parents, (Taylor, 2005). However, the introduction of NRTs have altered this relationship dynamic. NRTs have broken down the biological bond of ‘motherhood’ which results in the uncertainty about what ‘motherhood’ actually is. Furthermore, NRTs have also caused vagueness about the role of ‘fatherhood’. In certain cases of NRTs were the father of the child is not biological, there is concerns regarding whether the child takes the father’s name and the inheritance of property. There is also a sense of ego destruction when it comes to social fathers as genetic parenthood carries a significant value, not only as evident of being ‘manly’ or ‘powerful’, but also in relation to kinship. However, while the introduction of New Reproductive Technologies has changed the roles of parenthood, as they were once obvious and inevitable, parenthood roles now require definition by law as new categories have been introduced such as ‘social’ parents and a ‘gestatory’ mother (birth mother). Although these roles can be divided into categories by law, clarifying kinship is more difficult. Some people have concerns that rather than being pro-family, NRT inclines towards anti-family as it dilutes the family relatedness and can cause confusion and weak bonds between parents and off-spring, (Grobstein & Flower, 1985).

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Surrogacy as a New Reproductive Technologies. (2022, Jun 29). Edubirdie. Retrieved December 2, 2022, from https://edubirdie.com/examples/surrogacy-as-a-new-reproductive-technologies/
“Surrogacy as a New Reproductive Technologies.” Edubirdie, 29 Jun. 2022, edubirdie.com/examples/surrogacy-as-a-new-reproductive-technologies/
Surrogacy as a New Reproductive Technologies. [online]. Available at: <https://edubirdie.com/examples/surrogacy-as-a-new-reproductive-technologies/> [Accessed 2 Dec. 2022].
Surrogacy as a New Reproductive Technologies [Internet]. Edubirdie. 2022 Jun 29 [cited 2022 Dec 2]. Available from: https://edubirdie.com/examples/surrogacy-as-a-new-reproductive-technologies/
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