The Creation and Non-Creation of Markets in Reproductive Cells

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Denmark is widely known as a global exporter of cryopreserved sperm, Danish sperm bank Cryos has successfully coined themselves as the world’s largest sperm bank. Danish women’s eggs face a very different fate with far more legal restrictions.
In a country (and a region) that prides itself of gender equality this is a paradox. The buying and selling of sperm is supported and facilitated through the law but the buying and selling of eggs is not. But why is that and how is this paradox legitimized? Using Danish law and policy I want to demonstrate how markets in frozen reproductive cells are created and not created.
When the first danish ivf-baby was born in 1983, freezing technologies had long been used in connection with sperm. So, that part was not chilling for parliamentarians, it was hardly an issue at all. Freezing was in this context seen as a safety measure as guidelines were drawn that dictated that donated sperm should be frozen and not fresh. The use of donated sperm was also seen as a small and necessary part in providing a treatment that replaced a natural function. So, in the early days, sperm from different donors was mixed with sperm from the male of the couple being treated and no records were kept. Not knowing for sure who was the genetic father was seen as something positive, because ARTs were all about replacing a natural function, and since it was about creating nuclear families, then it followed that there was no place for a third-party in that equation. Sperm banks and the market in sperm was largely left to develop without much regulatory interest. It was something that pertained to the medical domain, and the legislator at that time had been very reluctant to regulate medical issues.
In the case of the non-creation of a market in frozen eggs, it seems that in the debates eggs and embryos are confused and intertwined – maybe because of the linguistic similarity in the Danish language between the two. Eggs become future children in ways that sperm does not, it is clear in the early debates in parliament that all sort of monstrous things can be done to these poor defenceless eggs. The imaginary of the doctor or scientist as someone in the service of good is fading away during this time period. So, the state needs to step up as a protector of moral virtue.
Original languageEnglish
Publication date2018
Publication statusPublished - 2018
EventNordic Network for Research in Biomedical Law - Rovaniemi University, Rovaniemi, Finland
Duration: 11 Oct 201812 Oct 2018


ConferenceNordic Network for Research in Biomedical Law
LocationRovaniemi University

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