Reproductive Rights, Ethics and Politics

March 28, 2018

University of Turku

Publicum, Assistentinkatu 7, hall PUB1

Center for the Study of Bioethics Finland, Rainbow Families Finland and University of Turku Philosophy, supported by Turku University Foundation, organize a one day seminar on reproduction rights, ethics and politics. We are delighted to host cutting-edge research interrogating kinship, justice and equality, among other issues, with assisted reproduction services, a globally growing market.

A key practice featuring several crucial research themes is surrogacy, an arrangement where a woman carries a baby that is not her genetic offspring for intended parents. One way  to tackle and theorize commercialism in surrogacy is not to focus on the commercialist motivation of the surrogate in deciding on ethicality of the practice. Especially surrogates in the Global South tend to get either demonized as purveyors of so-called commercial motherhood or patronized as mindless victims by white, middle-class academic feminism−. Instead, one approach is to analyze surrogacy as work and discuss the just distribution of the profits gained from this reproductive work. Most definitely, the key commercial players in the current, global reproductive game are not the surrogates. Hence it is ethically dubious and moral hedging to not place the transnational healthcare companies in the hot seat when deciding on the morality of commercial surrogacy practices. Conditioning surrogacy as motherhood and simultaneously linking unethical commercialism to the surrogate’s motives shows insufficient understanding of how motherhood is used to manipulate women in bioethical settings (it is used very similarly in both commercial and so-called altruistic surrogacy practices; most grossly in the former, it used  as a controlling discourse keeping surrogates at bay). Targeting surrogates’ motives as the defining elements of commercialism also displays insufficient regard to social and global justice: many women work as surrogates for various reasons, some because it is the best choice out of bad ones, but still, albeit controversially, offering many of them ways to improve their otherwise destitute lives.  A crucial connection to make and explore is that banning surrogacy in countries with high reproductive healthcare and relatively low income differences benefits the extremely exploitative mechanics of reproductive colonialism. Setting the so-called altruistic motive as the only one possible for the ethical surrogate, she is categorically excluded from benefitting from her reproductive work. What are the ethical justifications making the surrogates the only ones not entitled to benefit from their reproductive work as others (the brokers, the clinics, the stock holders of multinational healthcare companies) so obviously are entitled to these profits from their reproductive work?

Finland has stipulated a total ban on surrogacy since 2007. After a decade of abolition policy, an ethical account of its success is needed. To evaluate the total ban, we have invited a panel of Finnish experts to discuss the ethics and politics of surrogacy. Is it possible to find ethically sustainable surrogacy legislation and  practices? The panel will be held in Finnish. All speakers present in English.

Keynote speaker of the seminar is Prof. Amrita Pande, author of Wombs in Labor: Transnational Commercial Surrogacy in India (2014: Columbia University Press). She teaches in the Sociology department at University of Cape Town. Her research focuses on the intersection of globalization and intimacy. Her highly influential work on surrogacy has appeared in several leading journals and in numerous edited volumes and newspapers. She is currently involved in a large research project mapping “global fertility flows”  — flows of reproductive actors, laborers, bodies and substances (eggs, sperms, embryos) that connect the world in unexpected ways.

Please find further information on all the speakers and panelists here.

Tea and coffee will be provided by the courtesy of Rainbow Families Finland.

NOTE: Please sing up here to be included in the catering.

Students of sociology and philosophy can get student credit from attendance by using Luentopassi.


PROGRAM (ohjelma suomeksi täältä)

9.00  Helena Siipi, University of Turku/Center for the Study of Bioethics Finland: Welcome

9:05  Daniela Cutas  (Umaja University): Dangerous Liaisons: Parents, Children, and Third Party Reproduction

9:30  Lise Eriksson (Åbo Academi): Representations of Kinship and Parenthood in Surrogacy Families in Finland

9.55  Rapid Q&A

10.00-10.10  Break

10.10  Doris Leibetseder (University of Uppsala): QT Reproduction: Queer and Transgender Use of Assisted Reproductive Technologies

10.35  Mwenza Blell (University of Cambridge): Suspicion in the Clinical Encounter: British Pakistani Muslim Men’s (In)Fertility and the Welfare of the Child

11.00  Q&A Discussion for All Speakers

11.45–13.15  Lunch (not provided)

13.15  Sanna Koulu (University of Lapland): Children’s Rights and Normative Families in the Case Law on Assisted Reproduction

13.45  Keynote Amrita Pande (Univerisity of Cape Town): Wombs in Labor and the Paradox of Cross Border Commercial Surrogacy

14.45  Q&A Discussion

15.15–15.45  Coffee and Tea served in the Publicum lobby (remember to sing-up for catering)

15.45 –17.15  Panel: Surrogacy Ethics, Policy and Politics in Finland (IN FINNISH)

17.15  Closing Remarks



J.S.D, Ministerial Advisor Riitta Burrell/ University of Helsinki, Ministry of Social Affairs and Health

DrSocSc, University Lecturer Linda Hart/University of Turku Sociology

Executive Director Juha Jämsä,/Rainbow Families Finland

PhD,  Project Leader Anna Moring/ Network of Family Diversity

Activist Carolina Nysten, Kohtuuttomat ry (a non-governmental organization for women with uterus-related infertility)

PhD, University Lecturer, Research Fellow Salla Sariola/University of Turku Sociology; Nuffield Department of Population Health, University of Oxford

PhD, Docent Tuija Takala/ University of Helsinki Practical Philosophy


LLM Marjo Rantala, Doctoral Student/University of Helsinki Law

MSocSc, MA Tiia Sudenkaarne, Doctoral Student/University of Turku Practical Philosophy


Please see the seminar on Facebook.