Jennifer Lahl

Jennifer Lahl

I was happy to receive Marjorie Campbell’s kind invitation to join her team here at New Feminism. Marjorie and I have been meeting, thinking, and discussing many things as it relates to our bodies, our ability to procreate, and the impact that feminism has had in shaping the landscape for where we find ourselves today. Our conversations have been very helpful to me as we have some shared experiences in our past; old guard feminists looking to rethink the statement ‘you’ve come along way baby’, spiritual wanderers (rebels) who have found rest again in our faith, feeling we are at a time in our life when we were ready to spread our wings and embrace a new season in life, a new calling if you will. So, in this spirit of camaraderie, I will be writing here, mainly addressing things around infertility and reproductive ethics and technologies, although I have many interests in the whole field of bioethics, as I have my master’s degree in bioethics.

My personal interest in matters on infertility, assisted reproductive technologies, and modern day baby-making, has been shaped by many and my voice comes from many rich experiences in my life. I am first a woman with a keen interest in our bodies and health. I am a wife and a mother, so my thoughts have been impacted by what I have tried to live and teach at home. I spent 25 years working as a nurse, and am committed to patient advocacy; informed consent, evidenced-based medicine and medical ethics rooted in the ancient Hippocratic tradition—first, do no harm. The Georgetown mantra of beneficence, non-maleficence, autonomy and justice have no meaning if not rooted in a principle that recognizes the dignity and worth of every individual.

I came into the area of reproductive technologies through a sort of backdoor way. Living and working in California, I found myself entering the field of bioethics at the height of the embryonic stem cell and human cloning wars. How was it that we came to be debating over a half a million surplus frozen embryos in the United States? Why and when did the human embryo become such a prize to the stem cell researcher? It was through digging into these questions that I really uncovered the fertility industry and how uncritically we had accepted these technologies which allowed Louise Brown, the first “test-tube” baby, to be born, in order to help Mr. and Mrs. Brown have a baby. Through my writing and speaking, people began to find me – thanks to the internet and Facebook. They told me their stories which led me to make films. Three at this point and counting! First, I made Lines That Divide: The Great Stem Cell Debate. Then I made Eggsploitation, which won best documentary in the California Independent Film Festival in 2011 and in December of 2011, I released Anonymous Father’s Day which tells the stories of children, now adults, who were created via anonymous sperm donation. These films have had a big impact on engaging the public in conversation. While I have briefed legislators on Capitol Hill and at the state level, and testified at the European Parliament at Brussels on Human Egg Trafficking, I have found that through film, telling authentic and real people’s stories, I have been able to change people’s attitudes and thinking. Like the young woman at Loyola-Marymount who came up to me after watching Eggsploitation and said, I’m so glad I came tonight, I was just about to sell my eggs to pay my graduate school tuition. Infertility is nothing new. It has been with us since the beginning of time. I understand the heartache of the barren womb, as we recall Rachel crying out to God, “Give me children, lest I die”. What is new, however are these modern day technologies which seek to address the barren womb and make baby-making available to all (is 50 the new 30 for motherhood?) So, maybe with all of these new technologies, it is time for a New Feminism. I’ve always said, women (me included) have a unique role in pointing us in the right direction. For such a time as this, I’m here to do my part.

Posts from this author

An Open Letter RE: Louisiana SB 162 on May 19, 2013

Searching for Family on March 14, 2013

Wanted on February 11, 2013

Alana S. Newman: Shark Tank Girl on October 12, 2012

Body Parts for Sale on October 2, 2012

Worldwide Eggsploitation: Egg Donation and Exploitation of Young Women Results in Death on July 13, 2012

Freezers Are For Food on June 28, 2012

Secret Land Mines on June 17, 2012

Protect Your Fertility on May 17, 2012

It’s Menopause – Not Infertility on April 30, 2012