"Wombs for Rent" or Bodily Autonomy? Feminist Ambivalence Towards Assisted Reproduction in the 21st Century
Assisted reproduction has become increasingly widespread in the United States, with 73,602 children born using assisted reproductive technologies (ART) in 2020 alone. Yet, as of late, ART has not fostered much mainstream feminist action or extensive contemporary discourse within feminist legal theory. This raises the questions that motivate this Note: What has led to feminist ambivalence toward assisted reproduction? Is assisted reproduction a feminist issue?
This Note argues that the past decade is marked by a feminist ambivalence toward assisted reproduction. First, this Note suggests that this ambivalence is apparent in the lack of specifcally feminist legal theory on assisted reproduc tion. This Note provides an overview of writing by Dorothy Roberts, Douglas NeJaime, and Courtney Joslin, who it argues have written the most infuential contemporary scholarship on assisted reproduction. Next, this Note theorizes that assisted reproduction has never become a mainstream feminist issue because it has (1) historically divided feminists; (2) pitted feminists against LGBTQþ activists; and (3) because feminist attention has not proven to be necessary for, and in fact may attract controversy towards, the passage of permis sive-ART legislation. Finally, bolstered by a synthesis of ideas from Roberts, NeJaime, and Joslin, this Note argues that ART is a feminist issue, and should be considered as such because assisted reproduction is (1) deeply intertwined with reproductive justice; (2) requires a feminist perspective to ensure ART legislation does not interfere with individuals’ right to bodily autonomy; and (3) because ART has the feminist potential to reframe reproductive labor and family structures.