Let’s Raise the Volume on the Next Wave for Women, Families and Advanced Reproductive Technology
“We still have a long way to go. Our policies just haven’t kept up with the challenges women and families face today.” — Hillary Rodham Clinton, Fortune Magazine, September 29th, 2016
In the past few months I’ve been so energized by the possibility that the most powerful glass ceiling in our country could be broken. Hillary Clinton is not perfect — just as we all are not perfect — but her values and understanding of women,working mothers, work-life balance, and the health services we need to support our pursuits and families gave me hope.
It’s ever more important to keep moving forward and stay anchored in these conversations that will further increase women’s empowerment
It motivated me to launch Next Wave Fertility, a think lab and media platform that will explore the future of the family. We aim to amplify the conversation and understanding of the bioethics around new advanced reproductive technologies and the scientific studies of modern families. My hope is that Next Wave Fertility will lead this vital conversation about the future of human reproduction.
I purposefully launched it on a new platform called iFundWomen because the goal of this crowd funding platform is to acknowledge the funding gap that many women entrepreneurs face, and to break the glass ceiling and level the playing field for women seeking investment. The number of women-owned businesses grew 30% from 2007–2012. Despite these amazing gains, women still only receive 2–6% of venture capital funding.
The fact that women have made such enormous strides in education and the workplace since birth control was first introduced means that we are now delaying marriage and childbearing. Because of this, there is a strong need to raise the volume on the conversation about fertility and pregnancy timing, marriage, single parenting, the role of fathers in the two income family, and how much we should rely on advanced reproductive technologies.
Technology and feminism have made it possible for women to make choices they couldn’t have made even twenty years ago. Women and men are choosing to have babies on their own as economically empowered single parents. Women are freezing their eggs to wait for better relationships in order to create better emotional environments to raise their children. We want better control over the balance and timing of their career and family. Advanced reproductive technologies are also allowing LGBT families to have children through sperm and egg donors and surrogates.
As a DIY mom, I’ve been so inspired to teach my son that being the kid of a female-helmed household was cool, and I’ve hoped it would teach him to be a new kind of powerful man who respects and loves empowered women. I was so disappointed that last Wednesday morning, he didn’t wake up to a life in which he would have never known that a woman couldn’t lead our nation.
Instead, we woke up to a new order that voted to accept marginalization and sexism, and one in which white male power and conservative family values have circled the wagons around this new wave of change.
Even though so many of us feel set back, it’s important to know that the trends that are making this next wave conversation so important have not stopped. Across the globe young men and women are putting their economic power ahead of their procreative power. They are spending a larger portion of their early adulthood single, investing in education, careers and independence — and having children when they are more emotionally and financially stable.
So despite Trump’s election, it’s ever more important to keep moving forward and stay anchored in these conversations that will further increase women’s empowerment (and therefore family empowerment) and improve our cultural and scientific understanding about the new shapes of families, and the potential for new advanced reproductive technologies.
Egg freezing, which I’ve been calling the pill of the technology generation, could have as much impact on our lives as the pill did in the 1960s. But it’s imperative that we continue to research and critically discuss its uses alongside the ever important dialogue about the need for better access to contraceptives and our right to choose to terminate a pregnancy.
The nature of human reproduction is changing because of the rising age of marriage and pregnancy and the sociological shifts in marriage choice. Just this month, the World Health Organization called for a new definition of infertility that would include single men and single women who had not found a partner.
The authors of this new global standard said that every individual should have the “right to reproduce,” which could have profound effects on access to in vitro fertilization. Within this new definition, heterosexual single men and women, and LGBT men and women who want to have children could be given the same priority as medically infertile couples seeking IVF.
In the US, we have unprecedented access to advanced reproductive technologies, but it still comes with a luxury price tag that keeps it out of reach for many couples and individuals who don’t have health insurance that covers it.
As new advanced reproductive technologies are developed, including those that could help same sex couple biologically procreate or those that could let us edit the genes of embryos, I worry deeply about the permission we’ve just granted to people who advocate homogenous, racist, sexist and anti-LBGT values by electing Donald Trump. I worry that the diversity of family voices will be squelched and feel marginalized by a president who believes it’s ok to insult and harass anyone who is identified as “other.”
My first instinct was to hide under the covers because of this blow to our dignity, but as I’ve connected with friends and family, and like-minded people in my community, I find myself digging deeper into my inner resources to recalibrate. We must continue to talk, to believe in the values that make us who we are. It’s crucial that we move forward with these conversations and raise the volume even louder.