Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository

Degree

Doctor of Philosophy

Program

Philosophy

Supervisor(s)

Dr. Carolyn McLeod

Abstract

In this dissertation I examine ethical issues that concern fertility preservation (FP) technologies for women from a feminist perspective. FP technologies involve the removal, cryopreservation and subsequent storage of reproductive materials for future use. The aim of these technologies is to preserve the option of future genetic reproduction. FP technologies have been developed in the cancer context because infertility is one of the long-term side-effects of many cancers or cancer therapies. Many FP technologies are still experimental, but some technologies are becoming available to healthy women who wish to guard against age-related infertility. Although FP technologies are expanding women’s reproductive options and benefitting some women by satisfying their desires for genetically-related children, these technologies pose numerous physical, emotional and financial risks to women. I maintain that a feminist examination of choice is necessary for the ethical provision of FP technologies within patriarchal contexts. My analysis begins by demarcating two oppressive social biases from one another: namely pronatalism and biologism. I argue that each of these biases can unduly influence women’s reproductive choices about FP technologies. I then consider how these biases might be identified and challenged in the FP decision-making context. I outline an ethical process of informed choice that is equipped to protect patient autonomy when such autonomy is threatened by these biases. I then consider whether the choice to use FP should be available to both women within and without the cancer contexts. I argue that both disease-related FP and age-related FP can be morally permissible. Finally, I consider whether there should be an upper age limit on women’s access to their stored reproductive materials. I argue that age can be morally relevant to reproduction and thus age limits on access to assisted reproduction are morally permissible. I conclude by suggesting how feminist insights might inform policies on FP technologies and related assisted reproductive technologies. In sum, my dissertation shows that a feminist analysis of choices about FP is essential for ensuring the ethical provision of FP technologies.


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