The Legal and Relational Identity of the 'Not-Yet' Generation

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Over the last two decades biotechnological innovation in the field of assisted reproductive technology (ART) has significantly altered the regulatory landscape in Australia. There can be no more meaningful demonstration of this change than through an examination of laws controlling the development and use of embryos created outside the female body. In this paper, I examine the regulation and control of embryos created specifically for the purpose of reproduction. My aim in so doing is to unpack the way law attributes meaning and value to these particular embryonic entities as things in and of themselves, bypassing the otherwise constitutive role of women's embodiment. I will compare this legal conceptualisation with the diversity of ways in which these entities have meaning and value for the people who intend to develop them as their children. For some, embodied connection with the embryos that they have physically created is key while for others it is their genetic contribution that gives the embryo meaning and value. In the latter case, that genetic link can be to the woman herself; to existing children or to the 'batch' of embryos created in the relevant cycle. I will touch on all these forms of meaning but my main focus in this article will be the contrast between women's conceptualisation of their embodied relationship to their embryos and the value attributed to them by the law. It is women's bodies that are instrumental in the possible gestation of these embryos and thus their actualisation as legal persons - as rights-bearing citizens. My intention is to identify any misalignment between the value systems of law and that of women and consider whether and how the law might be changed to foreground (pre)maternal agency and thus women's embodied accounts of the value of their embryos.

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: December 1, 2012

More about this publication?
  • Stem cell research, cloning, GMOs ... How do regulations effect such emerging technologies? What impact do new technologies have on law? And can we rely on technology itself as a regulatory tool?

    The meeting of law and technology is rapidly becoming an increasingly significant (and controversial) topic. Law, Innovation and Technology is, however, the only journal to engage fully with it, setting an innovative and distinctive agenda for lawyers, ethicists and policy makers. Spanning ICTs, biotechnologies, nanotechnologies, neurotechnologies, robotics and AI, it offers a unique forum for the highest level of reflection on this essential area.

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