Volume XXIV

"Wombs for Rent" or Bodily Autonomy? Feminist Ambivalence Towards Assisted Reproduction in the 21st Century

by Rose Holden Vacanti Gilroy

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. 

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