Card image cap
Card image cap

New medical reproductive technologies in Romania: between women's autonomy and socio-economic inequalities

Sandrine Bretonnière

Eastern Europe is often seen as a vast, deregulated assisted reproduction market for women from the West, providing access even to reproductive bodies. But what is at stake in Eastern European countries for the women and men who live there ? In this article, I will focus on Romania and analyze the field of assisted reproduction and its implementation and development in a society marked by both the pro-natalist policy of the communist era and the lack of legislative framework for assisted reproductive technology (Cutas, 2008). I will attempt to show that in this highly patriarchal context (Kaser, 2008), assisted reproductive technology (ART)—but also abortion—is a means for Romanian women to reclaim their bodies and therefore also their autonomy. Their autonomy is connected to the autonomy of doctors, who view ART as a means of biomedical exploration and excellence. By taking part in assisted reproduction leading to late-life, even post-menopausal, pregnancies, Romanian women are also challenging—almost unintentionally—the social framework that biologizes the differences between men and women (Engeli, 2010 ; Théry, 2010). This autonomy comes with a price, however ; while there are no legal limitations on ART, related fees are not covered either (except under a Ministry of Health pilot program in 2011–2012), which exacerbates socio-economic inequality. This inequality and the erosion of individual rights that it creates have led to the mobilization of Romanian women around the issue of infertility and the Romanian government’s role in dealing with infertility. Social stakeholders are calling on the Romanian government to act against this aspect of reproductive injustice (Bretonnière, 2013) by reinvesting in reproduction in order to guarantee real rights to its citizens, not to control the parameters of human reproduction.