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Between Policy and Practice: Interdisciplinary Perspectives on Assisted Reproductive Technologies and Equitable Access to Health Care

In July 2015, the Brocher Foundation, set on the banks of Lake Leman in the idyllic countryside outside Geneva, became host to an international conference titled “Between Policy and Practice: Interdisciplinary Perspectives on Assisted Reproductive Technologies and Equitable Access to Health Care”.

The Brocher Foundation, Geneva

Zeynep Gurtin  July 2015

In July 2015, the Brocher Foundation, set on the banks of Lake Leman in the idyllic countryside outside Geneva, became host to an international conference titled “Between Policy and Practice: Interdisciplinary Perspectives on Assisted Reproductive Technologies and Equitable Access to Health Care”. Organized by Professors Joanna Mishtal (Department of Anthropology, University of Centre Florida) and Magdelena Radkowska-Walkowicz (Institute of Ethnology and Cultural Anthropology, University of Warsaw), the two-day conference brought together researchers from across Europe and North America, working on the social, ethical, philosophical, and practical questions concerning access to assisted reproductive technologies.

 The first day began with discussions on Bioethics and Law, later proceeding to the disciplinary areas of Sociology; Anthropology; Gender Studies; and Policy and Health Advocacy. In addition to invited speakers, the programme included presentations from PhD students and early career researchers, which were also complemented by display of a large number of posters exploring different perspectives of the conference theme.

 Brocher conference

On the second day, each of the invited participants were asked to spend 10 minutes reflecting on the previous day’s discussions and offering summaries of what they felt to be the main issues or themes to emerge from the meeting. This was followed by a more general group conversation, further exploring conference insights. The novel and informal set-up of this second day worked extremely well and most participants felt it enabled the group to develop deeper discussions based on exposure to one-another’s work and ideas. It is hoped that the conference proceedings will lead to a publication in the near future.

 Some of the themes to emerge included:

  • Globalization and the spread of ARTs
  • The difficulties and challenges of regulating ARTs (for states and jurisdictions), when we live in a globalised world that enables (relatively) easy access to cross-border reproductive care (CBRC) and reproductive tourism for individuals
  • Regulation, particularly prohibition of ARTs, as a displacement mechanism via CBRC
  • The lack of consensus on ART regulation; the corresponding relativity of morals, opinions, and legal principles surrounding ART regulation; and, hence, the impossibility of legal harmonisation even within Europe
  • The exploitation of existing stratifications and inequalities within the global reproduction market, and the (potential) creation of new forms of stratifications and inequalities around reproductive labour

The Reproductive Sociology Research Group supports research and teaching on the social and cultural implications of new reproductive technologies. ReproSoc is part of an expanding concentration of Reproductive Studies at Cambridge and is led by Professor Sarah Franklin.

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