Is Reproduction Women's Business? How Should We Regulate Regarding Stored Embryos, Posthumous Pregnancy, Ectogenesis and Male Pregnancy?

Traditionally reproduction, gestation and childbirth have all been regarded as being primarily a woman's domain. As natural reproduction occurs inside a woman's body, respect for autonomy and bodily integrity requires the pregnant woman to have the conclusive say over the fate of the embryo/fetus growing within her. Thus traditionally the ethics and law of reproduction is dominated by the importance of respecting women's reproductive choices. This paper argues that emerging technologies demand a radical rethink of ethics and law in the area of reproduction. The creation and storing of embryos outside of a woman's body and maintaining a pregnancy in a brain dead woman's body and future possibilities such as ectogenesis and male pregnancy raise important issues that cannot simply be answered by appealing to the rights of women to control their bodies. There are those who argue that when reproduction or reproductive products exist outside of a woman's body each gamete donor should have an equal say over the fate of the embryo/fetus. Others, however, argue that giving an equal say to gamete donors in practice usually means allowing the male donor to veto the reproductive enterprise and this is unacceptable. As a result it has been suggested that women should be favoured when it comes to such reproductive choices. This paper examines both sides of this debate in order to answer the fundamental ethical and policy question: 'Is there any reason why women should necessarily retain control over reproduction rather than simply over their own bodies?'
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DOI 10.2202/1941-6008.1037
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