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A little bit pregnant: towards a pluralist account of non-sexual reproduction
  1. Georgina Antonia Hall1,2
  1. 1Children's Bioethics Centre, The Royal Children's Hospital Melbourne, Parkville, Victoria, Australia
  2. 2School of Population and Global Health, The University of Melbourne Faculty of Medicine Dentistry and Health Sciences, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
  1. Correspondence to Dr Georgina Antonia Hall, Children's Bioethics Centre, The Royal Children's Hospital Melbourne, Parkville, Victoria 3052, Australia; georgina.hall{at}


Fertility clinicians participate in non-sexual reproductive projects by providing assisted reproductive technology (ART) to those hoping to reproduce, in support of their reproductive goals. In most countries where ART is available, the state regulates ART as a form of medical treatment. The predominant position in the reproductive rights literature frames the clinician’s role as medical technician, and the state as a third party with limited rights to interfere. These roles broadly align with established functions of clinician and state in Western liberal democracies, where doctors have duties to provide safe, beneficial and legal healthcare to all who seek it. Recognised state responsibilities include safeguarding equitable access to medical services and protecting and promoting reproductive liberty.

I argue against this normative moral framing of clinician and state involvement in non-sexual reproduction, suggesting that clinician and state join the non-sexual reproductive project at the point of triggering conception. Begetting a child is more than just the provision and regulation of healthcare; it generates rights and confers responsibilities on all who join this morally significant project. All who collaborate have the right to join or refuse to join the project. I suggest this is intuitively understood in the sexual realm, but not in the non-sexual realm. My key substantive claim is that non-sexual reproduction is a pluralist pursuit that morally implicates more than the genetic and gestational contributors. I find that while the moral basis of a clinician or the state’s right to refuse to join the ART project is the same as for those providing gestational or genetic input, the reasons that morally underpin their refusal differs.

  • ethics
  • ethics-medical
  • philosophy-medical
  • morals
  • reproductive medicine

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  • Contributors Georgina Hall is the sole author of this paper.

  • Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

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