Sarah Franklin PhD, Dept. of Sociology, Lancaster University, Lancaster, UK
Robbie Davis-Floyd Ph D,Research Fellow, Dept. of Anthropology, University of Texas Austin
This article appears in the Routledge International Encyclopedia of Women, New York: Routledge, 2001.
All human societies in all historical periods have developed techniques to prevent and to facilitate conception, and to shape culturally the physiological processes of gestation, labor, birth, and breastfeeding. There is, however, no precedent for the rapid expansion of reproductive technologies in the latter half of the twentieth century—an expansion that has dramatically redefined the parameters of biological reproduction. From the birth of the world’s first test-tube baby in 1978 to the cloning of a higher vertebrate from an adult cell in 1997, the last half of the twentieth century has constituted the most intensive period of human intervention into the reproductive process ever known. The new technologies developed to intervene in human reproduction include, among many others: birth control technologies such as intrauterine devices (IUDs) and the birth control pill; assisted conception
technologies such as artificial insemination and in-vitro fertilization (IVF); screening technologies such as ultrasound, amniocentesis, and blood testing; reparative technologies such as fetal surgeries performed in utero;