Bioethics Blogs

Sharing Motherhood and Patriarchal Prejudices

Guest Post: Ezio Di Nucci, University of Copenhagen

IVF, Same Sex Couples and the Value of Biological Ties 

Reproductive technologies are increasingly enabling access to parenthood to people who previously could not procreate: these developments are changing concepts and practices within family relationships in interesting ways. Take the following example: in a particular form of IVF treatment, known by the acronym ROPA (Reception of Oocytes from Partner), lesbian couples can share motherhood with one partner providing the eggs while the other becomes pregnant.

IVF-with-ROPA is, on the face of it, good news: two people can share the delight of parenthood and create a new family. More precisely, a couple that would have been previously relying on egg donation or surrogacy can do everything by themselves (obviously apart from the sperm donor), thereby being, in an important sense, empowered through technology.

Additionally, IVF-with-ROPA allows such couples to redistribute parenthood in ways that may turn out to be important both for the health of the relationship and from the point of view of justice, as both women can, through IVF-with-ROPA, claim to be biological mothers (the one through gestation, the other through genetics). IVF-with-ROPA, then, on top of fulfilling a very human wish, has the potential to empower women in at least two important ways: by granting (a more) independent access to motherhood and by promising a more equal relationship.

So far the good news. But I am afraid that IVF-with-ROPA, exactly from the point of view of women empowerment, also carries some very traditional risks. Think about it: IVF-with-ROPA (and, indeed, reproductive technologies more in general) does not actually enable parenthood full-stop; it only enables biological parenthood; as couples that go for IVF-with-ROPA could have presumably also become parents in non-biological ways (adoption, for example).

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.