For the 4th consecutive year, the “Fertility and Parenthood” exhibition will be held on the 2nd and 3rd September in Paris. This year it has been renamed using the English wording “Wish for a Baby”, the exhibition was previously known as “désir d’enfant (wishing for a child)”. Ever since its creation it has been the subject of controversy, since it has already allowed exhibitors, in particular foreign organisations, to promote and supply “services” which are prohibited in France and which are morally questionable, such as surrogate motherhood.
Although it provides conferences which appear interesting and balanced on painful problems such as endometriosis or the means for preserving fertility, this exhibition which on its web-site claims to be merely “a purely informative and non-commercial venue” in fact provides a sadly evident glimpse of four modern realities.
First of all, that human procreation constitutes and feeds a worldwide and colossal (in)human market. The exhibitors and speakers come from the Czech Republic, Ukraine, Spain, United States, Netherlands, Denmark, United Kingdom and also from France, of course.
Then, for several decades, and especially since the advent of in vitro fertilisation and the interference of technology on the human embryo and gametes, the biotechnologies have never ended transforming the view afforded to human procreation: life received has mutated to life fabricated, controlled and screened through genetic tests etc.
Also, that more and more, the wish for a child is in mutation. Such desire is generating a need and is being claimed now as a “right”.
Finally, this right is tending to individualise, as if procreation had become a personal attribute, a personal, individual capability, and no longer the only human function among all which is experienced as a couple, in sexual alterity.
For instance, Cryos International, the Danish sperm bank which “exports” worldwide, explains “how it works”. Amnios In Vitro Project, a Spanish company which offers the “ROPA method” for female couples, also known as “shared maternity”, which consists in inseminating the oocyte of one woman with a sperm donor, then implanting the embryo in the uterus of her partner… A practice which is prohibited in France. Vida Fertility Institute, a procreation clinic chain, explains how one can obtain an oocyte in Spain. Whilst “IVF Couriers”, explains how the international transportation of embryos, oocytes and gametes takes place, not to mention the sordid but brilliant survey by journalist Louise Audibert conducted in 2020. Another notable information, the widespread acceptance of technological eugenics is also featured. IVF kits with donated oocytes or double donated with Pre-implantation genetic screening of the resulting embryos obtained are presented by several foreign speakers and exhibitors. Tree of Life, a Californian company chain, which provides instruction on “the innovations in family planning: A deep immersion in the world of IVF, pre-implantation genetic screening and oocyte donation”…
It is clear to see that we have entered the era of manufacturing and marketing of the living. The human embryo, ova, sperm have all become marketable products. Artificial procreation meets wider aims than the mere response to the infertility affecting a man-woman couple of child-bearing age. It is feeding a new economy, filled with liberal values of freedom of choice and the all-powerful individual. It is a system in which the people, buyers, resources or products, become the very means enslaved in this “economy of life”.
This exhibition has a lot to say about the stakes and challenges surrounding the protection of the dignity of procreation. One can see the extent of the urgency to consider the human, to reject the fascination with the technical aspects or the market forces.