Infertility affects one of out of seven adults in the U.S. It is one of few diseases that affect both men and women equally. It is shocking how lowly-regarded issues of infertility are, considering its high impact on adults in the U.S. and around the world.
This semester, I’ve engaged in the study of female reproductive health and its numerous aspects through the lenses of global health, sociology, ethics and feminist studies. A shockingly large proportion of the U.S. struggles with issues related to infertility, and a desired expansion of family structures over the past few decades has led to an increasing turn to the use of artificial reproductive technology.
In a world of rising artificial reproductive technology (ART), the increasing freedom given to people who desire parenthood has been of concern. Parental behaviors and decisions have the most significant impact of any on children during the childbearing process, and artificial reproductive technology allows for the creation of families that could not have existed in the past.
However, the quintessence of these parental decisions has not changed; the decisions have simply expanded, and the increasing freedom that comes with artificial reproductive technology is a positive change. Some may argue that the “traditional family household” should not be a structure to challenge--the parental structure of having a genetic mother and genetic father. However, family styles have been unrestricted to genetic parents for centuries, with adoption having been practiced as early as during the Roman Republic. Family is so much more than this ancient idea of having a genetic mother and a genetic father. While a child entering the world is a force of nature, families are built upon foundations of nurture.
Artificial reproductive technology has been key in granting sexual and gender minorities in America with reproductive freedom. In today’s world, so many different people can take the form of parents, be it a grandparent, a same-sex couple, a single parent, a sibling, or someone who at first is a complete stranger, highlighting the ever-expanding definition of a family. Many make the argument that the more people that pour their love into producing a child, the better off the child is.
The future of ART is incredibly important. It grants increased reproductive freedom to sexual and gender minorities, and if ART is eventually viewed as a treatment covered by health insurance plans, could be useful in decreasing the gap between poor populations and rich populations, as infertility disproportionately affects poor populations. The incredible advances that have been made in the field of infertility treatments are evidence of scientific progress as infertility-treatment attempts have been made consistently throughout history. People who decades ago would have been unable to reproduce, are now able to, and fulfill what is a high priority aspiration for many people. With this comes many new issues dealing with anonymity of sperm or egg donor, relationships between surrogates and genetic mothers, and much more. However, the uncertainty that is being solved—that of being able to bear one’s own children—is arguably more important than the uncertainties in genetics and identity that are a byproduct of solving infertility issues. With ethical discretion, concerns over ART can be solved.
Saumya Sao is a Trinity sophomore.