As technology advances, new realms of research are discovered, and boundaries are pushed beyond imagination. Technological developments in the field of reproduction have allowed people to overcome infertility and even people without traditional reproductive means to have offspring. These new technologies demonstrate the scientific advancements of humanity, but they also give hope to those who struggle to reproduce or cannot reproduce which is extremely important for the future of same-sex couples.
The ART of Reproduction
The key term that encompasses the new technologies for reproduction is assistive reproductive technology (ART) which includes all treatments involving eggs or embryos except for the “stimulation of egg production without the intention of having eggs retrieved” (CDC). Surrogacy is a more common method of assistive reproduction that simply involves a party outside of the parents that carry the baby until birth. In vitro fertilization (IVF) is probably the most well-known of these processes and has been researched relatively thoroughly. IVF is the process in which mature eggs are taken and fertilized by sperm in a lab setting, and after being fertilized, the egg is placed in a uterus until birth. During this process, multiple eggs can end up being fertilized and transferred, resulting in unprecedented multiple births. A very new ART method is in vitro gametogenesis (IVG) which is a process that allows egg and sperm cells to be created from adult stem cells. IVG is still being heavily studied and has a long road of research to prove that it is a safe method of reproduction. This method is very important and potentially groundbreaking as it allows parents to have biological offspring even if they are unable to reproduce traditionally.
The Battle for ART
As with any drastic advancement of technology, some see untraditional methods as a threat to humanity. The main contention between these new reproductive technologies lies within the religious community (Cohen). In general, reproduction is a greatly debated topic not only with the religious community but in society. There are debates over the definition of life, when life begins, and the right to protection of unborn children. The opinions that oppose abortion and untraditional methods of reproduction are encompassed within something called the “personhood movement.” The group of people that support the personhood movement basically seek constitutional rights for zygotes, embryos, and fetuses.
Some instances of the negative effects of the personhood movement on the lives of LGBT people are the prohibition of using donated sperm or eggs in Italy and the regulation of ART that limits users to longtime heterosexual couples in France. In the United States, the denial of ART services is on an individual basis as there are no explicit laws limiting the services. A study from 2005 revealed that 20% of ART providers would refuse to service a single woman, 48% were extremely likely to refuse service to a gay couple with a surrogate, and 17% would refuse to service a lesbian couple requesting donor insemination. These attitudes are mostly religious and tie back to the personhood movement as non-traditional methods of reproduction and non-traditional families are seen as ways of “playing G-d” because they go against what is accepted in certain religions.
With more research, hopefully, the future of ART will be more accessible and more accepted by even those who have opposing beliefs. Fortunately, there are some options that currently exist for infertile or same-sex couples, but ART needs more support and research to provide more options and ensure the safety of ART users. The major risks of ART are the risk of multiple births and the sheer novelty of IVG, but IVG is a greatly promising new method that can change the lives of many people.