Everyday Ethics of Reproductive Outsourcing:
Making Good Life in the Era of Biocapitalism (EEROS)
Having a baby of ‘one’s own’ is increasingly being outsourced – reproductive tissue and labour are obtained from others as commercial services, often across national borders. To meet this demand the multimillion-euro fertility industry increasingly recruits, particularly, women as donors and surrogates from all over the world, and tailors its treatments to people willing to travel. This reliance on donor women’s reproductivity marks commercial outsourcing as a kind of biocapitalism. This Academy Research Fellow project (2019-2024, Project no 321711) is concerned with the enrolment of ethical valuation that goes into maintaining, altering, advancing and participating in the fertility industry and markets. The enrolment of ethical deliberation will be addressed through analysis of how participants in reproductive outsourcing, including patients, donors, medical professionals and different market players, deal in practice with their experiences of moral ambivalence, make ethical evaluations of vulnerability and weigh up their own self-interest versus the interest of others.
To conceptualise the practices the EEROS project will mobilise the notion of ethical labour. Through an exploration of ethical labour the study seeks to problematise the assumption that markets for reproductive outsourcing are merely another extension to the historical extraction of surplus value from women’s bodies. It will show that it is theoretically possible and laudable to exceed the current, commonly used binary construction of fertility markets and technologies as either categorically oppressive or empowering. The study will also have implications for healthcare and political significance in providing useful knowledge for professionals, bioethicists and policymakers. It will help pinpoint the ways in which social and gendered inequalities and exploitation emerge in practice.
The project focuses on the case of Finland, which has become a destination of choice for reproductive travel in the Nordic region and which combines a state-funded Nordic welfare system with a growing commercial care business. The methodological orientation of the research is multi-sited ethnography, and the research material consists of video-recordings, observations, interviews and documentary material. The material is collected at private fertility clinics and healthcare companies with links to international enterprises in Finland, and accompanying Finnish residents travelling across borders, presumably to Baltic countries and Eastern Europe.