A lesbian couple in Canaberra, Sydney went to see Dr. Robert Armellin for IVF. They specifically requested the implantation of one fertilized egg, and the doctor took it upon himself to implant two eggs. The end result is that now the two women are raising twin girls. In an attempt to mediate some of the financial burden, and emotional strain that raising two children instead of one would cause they filed suit against their doctor. The couple sought $389,000 which included the cost of private education for one of the girls. Today The ACT Supreme Court ruled in favour of Dr Armellin, and ordered the couple pay his legal costs.
I take issue with the courts decision. The women in question specifically told the doctor that they only wished to be implanted with one egg and by not honouring their request he committed a grievous act against them. Not only should he be financially responsible for the cost of raising this child until she reaches the age of maturity, he should be brought before a board of medical review.
Since the medical establishment has taken on fertility and reproduction through the vilification of the midwife, they have acted with callous disregard to womens interests and desires. If a woman cannot rightly assure that her wishes in regard to reproduction will be honoured, how can we claim any degree of autonomy? Dr Armellin is the de facto “parent” of one these of these girls, as she would not be alive had he chosen to respect the wishes of his patient. A Doctor should not be able to unilaterally decide an issue that will bind a woman legally for 18 years, and emotionally for a lifetime.
This case further supports the idea that we as women do not have a right to control our own fertility. There is a direct relation between this incident and the reduced access to birth control, and abortion. When women have children their ability to function in the public sphere is greatly reduced and this effects the degree to which they come under “patriarchal control”. What is at stake is more than fertility rights, what is at stake is personal autonomy and agency. If we cannot be freed from the responsibility of our wombs we will forever live under the rule of thumb.
Cross Posted from Womanist Musings