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All Reproduction Is Assisted: Questioning "Natural" Birth and Parenting


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In the Boston Review, Merve Emre examines how the belief in a “pure,” “natural” form of reproduction persists despite the proliferation of assisted reproductive technology’s such as intrauterine insemination (IUI), in vitro fertilization (IVF), and others. Emre talks to a number of people using assisted reproductive technologies to conceive a child, including a single woman and a lesbian couple. She finds that these people confront all sorts of skepticism and social disapproval because they are trying to conceive in a way that isn’t “natural.” However, Emre goes on to argue that all forms of reproduction, including the “natural” kind, are assisted in some way, whether by technology or by established social and medical norms. Here’s an excerpt:

Yet all reproduction, even reproduction that appears “natural,” is assisted. Some forms of assistance are simply rendered invisible because they are taken for granted by people for whom reproduction is not an obviously political issue. If you do not have to pay money to conceive, it may not occur to you that conception can be prohibitively costly. If you do not have to transform your body to gestate, it may not occur to you that gestation is hard and risky work. If a physician has never hurt you or mocked you or ignored you or lied to you, it may not occur to you that being deemed healthy enough to have children is an ideology rather than an ontology. If you do not have to worry about the legal status of your relationship to your child, it may not occur to you that she can be taken away. If you do not fear for your safety, it may not occur to you that you need to stay alive to create life.

Image: The first “incubator babies” from the 1909 World Fair. Via Boston Review.