The rapid advance and use of assisted reproductive technologies (ARTs), such as fertility medication, in vitro fertilisation, or surrogacy, has an ever-increasing range of implications for children and their human rights. But States have yet to settle the complex and sensitive ethical questions involved in using ARTs, and so far have mostly focused on the rights of adults to found a family or on the prohibition of all forms of assisted reproduction, rather than on how ARTs impact children’s rights.
The images below first featured as part of our research on this issue, which offers an initial look at ARTs from a children’s rights perspective.
How assisted reproduction is currently governed calls for clearer rights-based policy and legislation. Experts say that unregulated surrogacy might amount to the sale of children; prohibition of ARTs can prevent children born out of assisted reproduction from establishing their nationality or parentage; and restrictive laws may make it difficult for these children to access information about their biological origins. But in a field that is set to grow and develop rapidly as the 21st century progresses, and with jurisprudence and legislation on the use of ARTs still underdeveloped, it offers an opportunity to ensure that children’s rights are built into standards from the outset, avoiding legal advocacy later.
Access to ARTs does not only concern adults wishing to found a family; it is also relevant in circumstances in which children should have a right to access ARTs independently. For instance, if a child’s fertility is expected to be lost or reduced because of medical treatment for another condition, such as chemotherapy in cancer treatment, they should be given the option of freezing their genetic material to be able to found a family later in life.
National approaches to ARTs currently diverge significantly. Some governments have widely legalised commercial arrangements; others have imposed blanket bans in defence of cultural tradition; while in States with an underdeveloped legal framework, the use of ARTs is subject to market forces alone. All three contexts can create more problems than solutions for children born as a result of assisted reproduction, as well as for children who may wish to access certain ARTs to preserve their ability to found a family later in life.