Who Fertilzes the Fertilizers? More on Reproductive Technology Law

Following up on our post from a few days ago, Naomi Cahn (author of Test Tube Families) writes in the Baltimore Sun about the case of a 60-year-old woman who gave birth with the help of a fertility clinic.

So we are reminded yet again that doctors are getting better and better at delivering what, in years past, would have been reasonably described as miracles. And important questions are being asked as a result, such as: Is it responsible for a woman to bear children regardless of her age or the number of babies involved? Is it ethical for fertility clinics to facilitate a paying customer’s pregnancy simply because they know how?

To that mix, here’s one that’s equally controversial: Is it time for federal and state governments to consider legal rules and boundaries for the fertility industry? A new research-based report by the Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute, “Old Lessons for a New World,” suggests that the answer may finally be “yes.”

The report points out that adoption and assisted reproductive technology have much in common as “nontraditional” means of forming families, and that adoption’s far-longer history of research, experience and evidence-informed policies therefore could help to improve practices in the world of assisted reproduction.

Who Needs More than Eight Babies? A Legal Perspective

An op-ed by Naomi Cahn, author of Test Tube Families: Why the Fertility Market Needs Legal Representation (NYU Press 2009), and Jennifer Collins. Cross-posted (with permission from the author) from PrawfsBlawg.

If children are cheaper by the dozen, then how much for 14? Nadya Suleman is the mother of the new California octuplets (and 6 other children, all under the age of eight). She loves children, and she is very happy about the situation. She is fielding offers to appear on talk shows to tell her story, and carefully evaluating her next steps, according to her spokesperson.

The public response, however, has been far less enthusiastic, to put it mildly. Nadya Suleman has allegedly received death threats, and commentators have begun to call for increased regulation of fertility treatment. These calls for increased regulation fall into two main categories. First, some commentators have called for increased regulation of the in vitro fertilization procedure, which is the fertility treatment that led to Ms Suleman’s pregnancy, and in particular the number of embryos that can be transferred during the procedure. Others, however, have called for restricting access to the procedure itself. For example, Margaret Somerville, writing in the Ottawa Citizen newpaper, suggests that we need to consider whether prospective users of fertility treatment would be “suitable” parents, taking factors like family size and financial resources into account.

Let’s start with questions about increased regulation of the IVF process. How did Ms. Suleman’s particular procedure result in 8 babies?
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Follow That Sperm

Naomi Cahn, author of Families by Law (NYU Press 2004) and the forthcoming Test Tube Families (NYU Press 2008), along with Wendy Kramer, founder of the Donor Sibling Registry, recently published this op-ed in the Houston Press about the issues surrounding anonymous gamete donation.

Mandatory registry: Earlier this week, a Canadian court issued an order that prevented anyone from destroying any records they have about sperm, egg or embryo donation [“Donor Babies,” by Craig Malisow, November 6]. The court was responding to a class-action lawsuit filed by Olivia Pratten, whose parents used donor sperm 27 years ago. Pratten has been searching for almost a decade for information about the man who donated the sperm that makes up one-half of her genetic material. But she has no way of getting access to any records about him, and she doesn’t even know if any records still exist. Continue reading