Center for Genetics and Society and Our Bodies Ourselves Receive MacArthur Foundation Award

Women's Rehabilitation Center facilitators in Kathmandu
Women's Rehabilitation Center facilitators lead community discussions on cross-border surrogacy in Kathmandu / Photo courtesy of WOREC
By Judy Norsigian |

by Judy Norsigian & Marcy Darnovsky

We are delighted to announce that the Center for Genetics and Society and Our Bodies Ourselves have been awarded a $200,000 grant over two years by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation for our collaborative work on cross-border surrogacy and commercial egg retrieval.

This grant will allow us to build on our efforts to bring a human rights and social justice perspective to the assisted reproduction industry. We’ll be addressing several significant gaps is what is known about the experiences, risks and instances of human rights violations experienced by women working as surrogates or providing their eggs for others’ fertility treatments. We’ll also be looking at the experiences of prospective parents as they decide whether to undertake a cross-border surrogacy arrangement.

CGS and OBOS have worked on these issues for some time, both separately and together. We support the use of assisted reproductive technologies to help people create families, and recognize that egg providers, surrogates and commissioning parents can and do have positive experiences. But we’ve been struck repeatedly by the gaps in evidence-based knowledge about these arrangements, and how difficult this makes thoughtful deliberation about them. We also believe that continuing to allow unregulated markets to dictate how assisted reproduction is developed and used leaves us all ethically ill-served and politically vulnerable.

The MacArthur Foundation award will support several projects that will compile data about how surrogacy and egg retrieval are playing out “on the ground” for gestational mothers, egg providers, and commissioning parents. We will identify and compile existing country-level policies on these practices, interview egg providers, consult with women’s health groups in countries where commercial surrogacy and egg retrieval are prevalent or emerging, and survey available online information about cross-border surrogacy services.

Thank you, MacArthur Foundation, for making this cutting-edge work possible!

Judy Norsigian is a co-founder and executive director of Our Bodies Ourselves. Marcy Darnovsky is the executive director of Center for Genetics and Society. 

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