Donor Conception in today’s culture: what has changed?

La Trobe Law School’s Associate Professor Fiona Kelly has co-authored a book chapter with Associate Professor Deborah Dempsey, titled “Transnational third-party assisted conception: pursuing the desire for ‘origins’ information in the Internet era” in Miranda Davies (ed.), Global Babies: Transnational surrogacy and the new politics of reproduction (London: Zed Books, 2016) 204-219.

Transnational Surrogacy

The book looks at transnational surrogacy – the creation of babies across borders, – which has become big business. Globalization, reproductive technologies, new family formations and rising infertility are combining to produce a ‘quiet revolution’ in social and medical ethics and the nature of parenthood. Whereas much of the current scholarship has focused on the US and India, this groundbreaking anthology offers a far wider perspective. Featuring contributions from over thirty activists and scholars from a range of countries and disciplines, this collection offers the first genuinely international study of transnational surrogacy. Its innovative bottom-up approach, rooted in feminist perspectives, gives due prominence to the voices of those most affected by the global surrogacy chain, namely the surrogate mothers, donors, prospective parents and the children themselves. Through case studies ranging from Israel to Mexico, the book outlines the forces that are driving the growth of transnational surrogacy, as well as its implications for feminism, human rights, motherhood and masculinity.

Since its publication, the book has received great reviews from several researchers:

‘A ground-breaking book, where the voices of activists and those of researchers come together to address one of the most important, and complex, phenomena of our time: the transnational market in baby-making.’ 
– Yasmine Ergas, Columbia University

‘Miranda Davies has brought together a number of eminent authors and produced an outstanding collection. This book adds an entirely new dimension to the debate on the ethics of cross-border commercial surrogacy.’
– Katarina Trimmings, University of Aberdeen

‘Tackles the booming business in cross-border surrogacy with a provocative collection of international feminist perspectives.’
– Marcy Darnovsky, Executive Director, Center for Genetics and Society

‘Transcending the usual rhetoric of reproductive choice and free markets, these authors provide reasoned argument and survey evidence from around the globe.’
– Donna Dickenson, University of London (Emeritus)

Associate Professors Fiona Kelly and Deborah Dempsey: Donor Conception in today’s culture: what has changed?

Donor conception was historically shrouded in secrecy and heterosexual couples were encouraged to forget about it and not tell their children. However, it is increasingly accepted in the international literature that, while not all donor-conceived people would find information about their sperm or egg donor necessary, meaningful or useful, ‘the state, in its stewardship role, has a duty to ensure that information is available for those who might feel an interest in or need for it’ (Nuffield Council on Bioethics, 2013: 123). Furthermore, the internet offers today’s recipients and offspring of donor gametes and gestational services many ways to seek and find information, as well as organize themselves into communities of connection and support. In this chapter, Associate Professor Fiona Kelly and Deborah Dempsey argue that we can expect interest in information of genetic and gestational origins to remain strong among children born of transnational assisted reproduction, particularly given developments in various internet-based genetic and communication technologies. These include the marketing of DNA paternity testing and genetic genealogy, the creation of donor sibling registers and the opportunities afforded by photographic ‘detective work’, software and social media. These means of donor tracing raise questions about the extent to which permanent privacy or anonymity can feasibly be promised to sperm and egg donors, at the same time as use of anonymous third-party assisted conception remains the norm in most parts of the world. It is imperative to encourage reproductive medicine clinics in countries where anonymity remains legal to reconsider their promises of privacy along with their identity registration processes.

To order a copy of the anthology, go to the publisher’s website.

La Trobe