Virginie Rozee

INED sociologist tells us about "Assisted Reproductive Technologies in the Global South and North", a new book she edited with Sayeed Unisa.

(Interview conducted in November 2016)

How did the book come to be?

The point of departure was an international seminar we organized in India in 2014 on the issue of Assisted Reproductive Technologies (ART). The book includes some of those papers, along with other chapters offering a global geographical and topic-centred approach. We were motivated above all by the fact that while ART is well documented in developed and Northern countries, this is not the case for less developed ones. The book’s aim then is to better understand ART practices, legal and other frameworks, and especially the mainly social challenges posed by these technologies in different sociocultural, economic and political contexts.

What would you say are the book’s main contributions?

It offers multidisciplinary scientific studies conducted in twelve different countries and regions ranging from Latin America to India and including Africa, Israel and Ukraine. The authors analyse both “classic” ART situations and recent techniques such as egg freezing, also applying new approaches such as weblog analysis. And a full part of the book is devoted to surrogacy, a minority practice yet the most controversial and least scientifically documented.

ART cannot be dissociated from gender issues and it varies widely throughout the world in terms of access, representations and experiences, diversity explained by the contexts specific to each country and society. However, we do identify some common issues, such as unequal access and the duty of motherhood, that do not fit into a binary “Northern versus Southern countries” opposition. ART and the challenges it raises are a matter of concern everywhere but the points of debate are not always the same.

What proportion of births are due to surrogacy?

As many countries have no national birth or other records we cannot count with any precision the number of births due to surrogacy. Moreover, surrogacy is practiced at both local and international scales, which once again limits production of precise data. However, the estimates we do have show that surrogacy accounts for a very small proportion of births. In the United States, it is estimated that 1,000-1,500 of over 4 million births involved surrogacy. In Australia in 2011, the estimated figure was 300 (practiced either in the country or abroad). 

What kind of laws exist on surrogacy?

The legal frameworks for surrogacy—form and content­—vary greatly from one country to another but also within countries. Some only allow altruistic surrogacy (no financial transaction); others reserve surrogacy for heterosexual couples, etc. Legal frameworks seem to diminish the medical, social and legal risks involved but not to keep people from going abroad for surrogacy.