UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Reproductive technologies and the Charter Morton, Chantal


Reproductive technologies such as alternative insemination and in-vitro fertilization, and their implementation through surrogacy, have been developed and managed in Canada without enough concern for the interests and needs of women. There is a lack of regulation establishing safety standards and protection for the needs of the women participating. There is also discrimination in determining who shall be allowed access to the procedures. The theoretical basis for the development of the technologies and their discriminatory implementation can be found in the ideologies of motherhood, privacy and notions of formal equality. Woman has been socially constructed by men as an object - an object that is partially defined by her reproductive function. We can only understand reproductive technologies within this context of women's situation - that is, as the 'Other' that men have created. A woman's gendered identity includes the possibility of pregnancy and motherhood. Difference from men based on this biological potential is used to justify inequality. Section 15 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms may be a means to assert women's rights to control of the technologies. However, the articulation of Charter rights may be constrained by patriarchal assumptions of who should be a mother, notions of public/private that limit Charter applicability and do not recognize state involvement in maintaining a system of inequality, and notions of formal equality that assume that women and men are equal if they are treated as 'the same'. These assumptions remain as potential obstacles to a mobilization of the Charter. In order to challenge the theoretical basis of the development of reproductive technologies it will be necessary to the subordination of women. This will entail the deconstruction of the patriarchal foundations of the social, legal and political systems that identify men as the norm and women as difference. By recognizing and affirming difference in a vision of equality that does not prioritize 'sameness', it will be possible to redefine what motherhood means by including the many experiences of different women. Thus, the technologies will be developed with the interests of women as the primary concern and they will no longer be made available solely to those who conform to the ideologies of motherhood that prioritize heterosexual, middle class women.

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