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Women's Studies International Forum
j o u r n a l h o m e p a g e : w w w. e l s ev i e r. c o m / l o c a t e / w s i f
From test-tube women to bodies without women
Feminist International Network of Resistance to Reproductive and Genetic Engineering (FINRRAGE), PO Box 212,North Melbourne Victoria 3051, Australia
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In this article I summarise twenty-ﬁve years of international feminist resistance to reproductive and genetic engineering. Drawing on the work of FINRRAGE (Feminist International Network of Resistance to Reproductive and Genetic Engineering) I list the main objections of feminist critics to the globalcommodiﬁcation of women. Under the guise of ‘doing good’ and the catch cry ‘women want it’ (i.e. allegedly to alleviate the suffering of infertility/too much fertility, or eliminate genetic imperfection), reproductive and genetic engineers have reduced women — and their babies — to a series of body parts and tissues that can be traded, screened and eliminated at will. Discussions include the many physiologicalas well as psychological dangers inherent in the medicalisation of in/fertile women's lives and their children through the Big Business of in vitro fertilisation (IVF) and related genetic technologies in a global context. I also critically examine the pro-technology position of liberal feminists including their much touted concept of ‘choice’. Lastly, I ask where the recent opening of the door toembryonic stem cell research via commercial and ‘altruistic’ egg cell ‘donation’ is taking society and how long it will be before cloning of human beings is justiﬁed as ‘for our own good’ and women's alienation to their own body (parts) will lead to their annihilation. © 2008 Dr Renate Klein. Published by Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
Available online 5 June 2008
Introduction WhenLouise Brown, the ﬁrst test-tube baby, was born in 1978, few (radical) feminists had a sense of whether or not these technologies would be in women's best interest, and indeed might ‘liberate’ women from the ‘tyranny of biology’ as Shulamith Firestone had suggested in 1970. However, early warnings such as those by Rita Arditti (19741) and by Hilary Rose and Jalna Hanmer2 (1976), that science andtechnology are never neutral but always do patriarchy's and capitalism's bidding and move with the times, made some of us sceptical.3 Test-Tube Women: What Future for Motherhood (edited by Rita Arditti, Renate Duelli Klein and Shelley Minden, 1984) and The Mother Machine (by Gena Corea, 1985) began the radical feminist quest to shed light on what ‘gifts’ benevolent (male) scientists and doctors wereready to bestow on women worldwide.4 As our knowledge grew so did our concerns. A panel at the 2nd International Interdisciplinary Congress on Women, in Groningen, Holland, in April 1984, organised by Robyn Rowland and Becky Holmes asked the disturbing question ‘Death of the Female?’.5 At the end of the presentations, the 500 participants urgently demanded the foundation
of an internationalnetwork to counteract what was beginning to look increasingly like a massive threat to female existence rather than liberation for women. So FINNRET was born (Feminist International Network on the New Reproductive Technologies). In 1985, FINNRET organised a national UK conference and German feminists held a rousing Congress ‘Women against Gene and Reproductive Technologies’ in Bonn with thousands ofparticipants who issued a clear ‘no’ to the technological take-over of women's reproduction and lives (Die Grünen im Bundestag, 1985). A risk assessment discussion was rejected — the technologies were (rightly) perceived as uncontrollable and needed to be stopped. Months later in the same year, FINNRET convened an ‘Emergency Conference’ in Vållinge, Sweden. Buoyed by the events in Germany, the...