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The "biological clock" of women: a naturalistic model in question

Manon Vialle

The increase in age-related infertility in advanced industrial societies has led to an increase in demand for assisted reproductive technology (ART) and caused each society to question its norms and practices. In France, this debate reveals the specificity of the bio-ethical model that regulates ART and the growing tensions and contradictions in this model. What makes this model particular is the fact that it is strictly “therapeutic” and based on the notion of “pathological infertility.” But the apparently simple distinction between pathology and personal reasons is called into question by age-related infertility : it invites a more complex approach to infertility, with both somatic and social aspects. Using a survey of professionals who work with infertility, we will show the pervasiveness of this therapeutic model in their practice. We will also show how the contemporary socio-demographic context is changing the concept of infertility and casting doubt on the validity of this model as a reference. In addition, new techniques such as the cryopreservation of oocytes further call into question the bio-ethical model and lead to new ways of thinking about the pathology–personal reasons duality on which it is based. The question is whether this model can evolve into a more complex, less ideological view of infertility. This will be an important issue for French society in the coming years, and the issue involves much more than just access to technology that encourages this evolution.