April 18, 2024

Shared lesbian motherhood defended

Spanish clinic outlines ethical value of its services

A Spanish IVF clinic
has published the first clinical report of helping lesbian couples to share
biological motherhood. The procedure, which they call ROPA (reception of
oocytes from partner), involves one woman supplying eggs and the other
gestating them in her womb. Although it is more costly than donor insemination,
it is technically straightforward and has “the psychosocial advantage of
allowing them to both participate in the creation of the child”, according to a
commentary in the journal Human Reproduction
. The clinic, CEFER Institute
of Reproduction, treated 14 lesbian couples between 2007 and 2009.

CEFER is very enthusiastic
about the technique. Its clinicians write: “The
children that will be born through the ROPA technique are wanted
children, like all children attained through ART, and this is a very
positive factor for the child.”

The most difficult
consideration are ethical, but these are disposed of very easily by the Spanish
doctors. Benificence? “To bring a child into
the world is, we believe, to do something positive for him.”
Non-malificence? “The child’s development does not seem to be
affected by living in a family with two mothers, by the absence of a
father or by maternal homosexuality.” Autonomy? “ROPA is only carried out
with lesbian couples who so request it and are previously informed.”

A commentary, by Dutch IVF experts, gives a
fuller description of the ethical questions raised by ROPA. The main question
is whether ROPA is really to be regarded as a medical procedure since both
women are healthy and there is no disease to be cured. However, they write, “in
reality the practice of medicine comprises many activities that
would then also have to be questioned, including sterilization,
abortion, cosmetic surgery and, indeed, [donor insemination] for
reproductively healthy single women and lesbian couples. More fundamentally,
the concepts of ‘health’ and ‘disease’ are not as clear-cut and
objective as his argument suggests. This is obviously the case in
the context of reproductive medicine, certain applications of which
are better understood as a treatment for involuntary childlessness
than as an intervention aimed to redress a biological defect.” ~ Human
Reproduction, April

Michael Cook
lesbian motherhood