Cosmopolitan Conceptions: IVF Sojourns in Global Dubai
Marcia C. Inhorn is William K. Lanman Jr. Professor of Anthropology and International Affairs in the Department of Anthropology and The Whitney and Betty MacMillan Center for International and Area Studies at Yale University. She is the coeditor of Medical Anthropology at the Intersections: Histories, Activisms, and Futures, also published by Duke University Press.
Restrictions: Religious Bans and Law Evasion
Many infertile couples travel to avoid their countries’ assisted reproduction laws, which may prohibit particular services such as third-party sperm and egg donation. Europe has the highest number of such laws, and hence the highest number of law evaders. Some of these European “outlaws” are making their way to Dubai for services that are illegal in their home countries. However, the UAE, which once boasted the Middle East’s most permissive assisted reproduction system, has recently become the world’s most restrictive. In 2010, the UAE passed an Islamically inspired assisted reproduction law, characterized by “legal devolution,” or law enforcement delegated to regional authorities. Legal devolution in the Emirates has created new legal hurdles for traveling couples, as well as new forms of “law evasion.” Reprotravelers to the Emirates may become “reproductive outlaws” in order to bypass these restrictions. This is especially true for third-party reproductive assistance (egg and sperm donation, as well as surrogacy), which is prohibited by the Sunni Islamic authorities and is now illegal in the Emirates. Moreover, women needing a selective abortion to “reduce” high-risk, multifetal IVF pregnancies must travel outside the country. However, some couples are using a permitted technique, preimplantation genetic diagnosis, to travel to the UAE for sex selection. This chapter highlights the ways in which law and religion converge in the UAE to complicate reproductive pathways, fragment women’s reproductive healthcare, and fuel a vicious “clinic war.”