The Realities of Globalized Assisted Reproduction

There’s no question but that assisted reproductive technology (ART) is not only an industry, but a global one.   Most ART is, relatively speaking, expensive and so it’s hardly surprising that those with the resources to consume ART also have the resources for travel.   You can look under the tab for “globalization” to see some of the earlier discussion. 

There have been a number of recent articles that fill out this picture, though I don’t know that they add anything truly new.   This, from the Wall Street Journal, is a detailed account of (to use the title) “Assembling the Global Baby.”   It’s a startling picture of the worldwide industry that already exists, and it’s important to realize that this isn’t the future–it’s the present. 

Add that story to this one, from Montreal.  It seems that the Canadian effort to avoid the commercialization (and/or commodification) of ART is failing.   But given the WSJ story, how can we be surprised.   People who are unhappy with the Canadian restrictions can enter the global arena or the black market.  

My worst fear is really the global race to the bottom, that ends with surrogacy being available where it is cheapest, where the surrogates have the least autonomy and dignity, where there are no regulations.   And it seems like this is all too possible.  Witness the chilling story today about an illegal organ harvesting ring in Kosovo.   I’m sorry to sound cynical, but it does appear that whatever money can buy, it will buy.  

But even if I’m pragmatic, I am not prone to despair.   It seems to me that reality demands that we consider whether it’s possible to regulate ART in a way that minimizes the abuses while being accessible enough that people won’t be tempted to enter the largely unregulated global markets.    Simply put, banning ART won’t work.  It’s too late to put this particular genie back into its bottle.   The world’s a big place and if you ban it in Canada people will go to California.

Now coming up with the right set of regulations is no easy task.  But it does seem to me that this is the task at hand.


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