When I talk to many of my friends about my involvement in H*yas for Choice, most of the time, the conversation is relegated to discussion of abortion itself. Second to that (and maybe only because of my American flag made of condoms) contraception is the focus of the discussion.
However, viewing reproductive justice through this narrow lens is a disservice to what the reproductive-justice movement is truly about: every individual having his or her own reproductive agency. Reproductive agency extends beyond the decision to terminate a pregnancy — it also encompasses the decision to become pregnant, to raise children, and to have the power to change the environment in which one’s children are raised.
Fortunately for many, modern medicine has made it far more possible for couples who were previously unable to have children to conceive. I am proud to be a result of these modern technologies, and I will always be thankful to my parents and the countless medical professionals that made my life possible.
But unfortunately, the anti-choice community can’t find it in their hearts to leave even one plank of the large Reproductive-Justice platform unscathed. This year’s Cardinal O’Connor Conference has found Jennifer Lahl, a speaker who is willing to oppose this seemingly all-around good cause.
Lahl’s larger criticism of assistive reproductive technologies is cloaked in concern for disadvantaged populations who might be coerced into acting as surrogates or donating eggs or sperm. However, dive deeper into her writing and it is evident that her examples are homophobic (a surrogate mother refusing to give up the baby to a gay couple), overly occupied with potential failure rates, and predicated on the existence of an inherent, undeniable biological connection between parent and offspring — regardless of whether or not the parents and offspring have ever met.
Writing, “Assistive reproductive technologies such as in vitro fertilization not only involve serious medical risks, they also disrupt family life and commodify human beings,” Lahl misses the forest for the trees. If anything, technologies such as IVF empower individuals to have the family life that they determine is best for them. Just because an individual’s family life fails to perfectly align with Lahl’s conception, it is not any less of a family.
Perhaps what is most personally insulting to me is Lahl’s repeated assertion that children conceived through assistive reproductive technology are likely to feel loss because they are not directly connected with their biological parents.
From personal experience, I can tell Lahl that she would be far better served by asking people who were conceived thanks to assistive reproductive technologies about their opinions on the matter. Rather than lending credence to bizarre, fear-mongering, futuristic claims that within 50 years all children will be engineered in a lab, Lahl should refrain from “other-ing” individuals conceived in that fashion.
Lahl hides behind trendy hashtags like #eggsploitation and #breeders, but at the end of the day, her argument rests on the preservation of traditional familial structures that only inhibit the reproductive agency of women. Instead of opposing assistive reproductive technology all together, Lahl and her supporters would be better served by targeting systemic inequity.
Abby Grace (SFS’16) is the President of H*yas for Choice and an IVF baby.