Can you hear the crickets chirping? On silences and assisted reproduction…

by Lisa Lehner

In vitro fertilization under the microscope. – Photo by Zeiss Microscopy.

Austria just changed its cornerstone law on assisted reproduction and it’s a big deal. The “Fortpflanzungsmedizingesetz (FMedG)” [1], virtually unchanged since 1992, will now give women in same-sex partnerships access to assisted reproductive treatment, extend the use of third-party gamete donations and allow pre-implantation diagnostics.

That’s the stuff of big debates, one would think. In retrospect, however, not much talking happened at all. After a Constitutional Court decision it took the government about a year to react. Running on a deadline, then, the revision felt rushed and was capped off with a severely shortened review phase before the new law entered parliament last December. It has become somewhat of a pattern in matters of assisted reproduction that broader socio-political debates in Austria are, at best, rather subdued.

This is problematic at least for two related reasons: For one, this approach fails to appreciate as voices worthy of being heard the lived realities of people who have undergone, are undergoing or are unable to undergo assisted reproductive treatment. Secondly, excluding these voices also fails to recognize a variety of issues as meriting consideration.

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