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The Janus-Face of New Reproductive Technologies: Escaping the Polarized Debate

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Reproduction is held by some to be a divine gift, and by others to be a matter of reproductive rights. The first can leave infertile couples feeling unfulfilled and ‘unblessed’ and the second can be seen as dehumanizing. Yet, despite these vastly divergent understandings, public theology has given little guidance on the use of reproductive technologies and little consideration to their effect on women in particular. This article will interrogate the fault line in feminist thinking—between those who view reproduction as a source of disempowerment and those who view it as empowering—and explore how the debate has developed with the introduction of New Reproductive Technologies (NRTs). It will track the original debate about reproduction in first and second wave feminism. Then, it will consider how this debate has changed with the advent of NRTs. The final section will turn to feminist theology and its surprising lack of contribution to this debate. It will conclude by seeking possible ways forward, identifying resources, in the original feminist debate and in feminist theology, that could usefully be brought into conversation with public theology in order to address this core feminist concern.


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