Reproductive technology and historical power relations

by Isarin Furutani

First, I would summarize briefly my section that I was responsible for my presentation and I would talk further about egg donation itself and what I found interesting.

The second half of this chapter (the part I am responsible for) describes the concept of egg donation and how race and ethnicity played a role for infertile couples to choose their donors. The author discussed the existence of partial neglect on pallor skin from white women who believes that a mixed child is considered more attractive than a pure pallor person. Therefore, the white couples in the chapter chose a more tan donor, or donors who are from a minority group to create a mixed baby. The author did not talk much but showed that the clinics are cautious in representing that the donor’s phenotype is not everything and that even if you choose a light black African women as a donor, you are still possible to get a darker child. This was seen in the showing of the pictures of the children of the donor who were darker and who were lighter.

Ancestral heritage also played a huge role in some cases of Japanese recipients, in which the recipient denied the donation from a Korean ancestral person even if the person liked the person’s phenotype. Lastly was the concept of a personal preference by couples. The example was a German couple who wanted an Indian donor to satisfy their own interest in Buddhism. The clinic denied it as it was not an “honorable reproductive motive”. The author concludes the chapter with the idea that each characteristics such as skin tone are linked to the power itself (social hierarchy from historical events) and this has effects the donors and recipients ways of interpreting each characteristics and affecting the choice in choosing donors.

The concept of skin tone and preferences, as we have read in many other chapters, is manifested everywhere. We have read about Mexico’s preference of lighter partners, women in Africa buying whitening creams that can actually be dangerous and now we are attacking the concept of egg recipients valuing their donors through their own preferential indicators which can be race, ethnicity or maybe even characteristics. The chapter provided some examples which showed the existence of said preferential choosing of donors and how it is linked to the historical power relations being expressed by each race or ethnicity. What was interesting was the change in the white couples aiming for tanning their children through mixing rather than maintaining the white/pallor skin, where white women thought it was unattractive because of the wrinkles when you get old. This probably contributed to the sense of further encouraging more mixing between people in the globalized world, believing that mixed-children are attractive. I do not know much about this boom but I believe even in Japan half people (half-asian half-west) are considered to look different and better.

I researched a bit about Japan on this issue and have learned that Japan actually bans egg donation and surrogate motherhood. (However it was interesting that they allow artificial reproduction using donated sperms.) It is actually this year when Noda Seiko, the lawmaker and parliament member of Japan, gave birth through egg donation from an American person, that pushed for a law to allow egg donation and surrogate motherhood. It is also an interesting perspective to encourage more reproduction in Japan (although I am not sure whether how much can it really affect). Aki Mukai a Japanese actress had her twin baby through surrogate motherhood because of her cancer problems which destroyed her ability to reproduce. She tried to legally attain her children Japanese resident rights but the supreme court actually ruled against her and in the end she had to “adopt” her own biological child.

The concept of “biological” child is a significant differentiation to “genetic” factors. The youtube video on Dr Georgia explains the beauty of egg donation, stating that even if the egg is not “genetically” yours, because the baby grows in your own body with your own resources, what is actually creating your baby is the minerals in your body and not others. Even if the ears may not be designed by your genes (chance that it can still be from your partner’s too), what is actually creating those ears are you and not the donor. This creates the difference between genetic mother and biological mother which itself and that the mother (recipient) can still feel the process of reproduction and feel more like her real baby than compared to adoption.

The concept of egg donation can really be discussed in many ways that I probably can write a long report on it. But it is an emerging new medical field that provides reproductive opportunities to infertile individuals where social historical power relations affecting personal preferences seems to play a role in the decisions of the recipients.

Two youtube videos are attached that I believe is worth watching – One is a debate on whether egg donation is moral, and the other is the explanation of egg donation by Dr Georgia, a clinical psychologist.

The two articles are on the egg donation issue in Japan. However, I believe the article on Noda Seiko has been locked and you have to subscribe to see it.

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