Swasti Bhattacharya, Michael J. Broyde and directors Vaishali Sinha and Rebecca Haimowitz provide prospectives on bioethical interpretations of reproductive technologies in the 21st century. They interpret bioethics specifically through the lens of Jewish and Hindu religions, as well as Indian culture and Islam. All of them accomplish this through different methods. Bhattacharya interprets bioethics relating to reproductive technology through a Hindu lens. She focuses specifically on Mahābhārata, a well-known religious epic, to focus on six key elements of Hindu thought to guide her discussion of reproductive technology and bioethics. Michael J. Broyde discusses reproductive technology in the context of halakhah, or Jewish law. Vaishali Sinha’s and Rebecca Haimowitz’s film “Made in India” follows an American couple through their experience with surrogacy in Mumbai, India.
Swasti Bhattacharya establishes an interpretation of Hindu bioethical rationale of reproductive technology in her book, “Magical Progeny, Modern Technology”. She does this to increase cultural understandings of Hindu bioethics in the US, as most scholarship in the field is informed through Jewish or Christian notions. Bhattacharya stresses multiple times throughout the book that her interpretation of Hindu bioethics through the Mahābhārata is one perspective. She makes it very clear that Hinduism exists in great variability, that it is not a monolith. Her choice to interpret the Mahābhārata comes from its popularity, as well as its relevancy to the topic: she focuses on the struggles of Kunti, Madri and Gandhari in conceiving a child. Bhattacharya then examines Hindu ethical interpretations of reproductive technology through six main themes found in the text: “1) an emphasis on the centrality of societal good 2) a firm belief in the underlying unity of all life 3) the expectations and requirements of dharma 4) the multivalent nature of Hindu traditions 5) karma theory and 6) commitment to no harm” (Bhattacharya 77). Through these six themes, she turns to a case study of a Californian family’s experience with IVF to demonstrate that above all, Hindu ethics is concerned with societal and universal good, and reproductive technologies must be analyzed under that lens.
Michael J. Broyde discusses halakhah (Jewish law), reproductive technology, and bioethics in a book chapter titled, “Modern Reproductive Technologies and Jewish Law”. He finds that if cloning is absolutely necessary, it can be interpreted as a “mitzvah” (a good deed), or as morally neutral. He contends that while the ethical consideration of cloning is incredibly dependent of the context, it is not in the Jewish interest to prohibit, as this goes against tradition which, “…imposes a duty on those capable of resolving such matters to do so” (Broyde 316). Broyde proposes three guidelines regarding cloning that work to prevent violations of halakhah. All three of the guidelines tend towards keeping the amount of bodies involved in the process as minimal as possible, hopefully between a man and wife, and that if not a non-Jew then an unmarried Jewish women should be involved in carrying the clone. Both Broyde and Bhattacharya stress that their interpretation of religious notions of bioethics and reproductive technology do not stand as a monolith for the entire religion.
Vaishali Sinha’s and Rebecca Haimowitz’s film “Made in India” focuses more on cross-cultural ethical considerations of surrogacy as an American couple outsources their surrogate from India. Lisa and Brian recruit Aasia through a surrogacy agency in Mumbai to carry their twins. Aasia signs on to provide for her family because she lives in poverty, despite her husband’s disapproval for religious reasons. Aasia and her family are Muslim. Aasia actually ends up having to leave her home and stay in a surrogacy house before prematurely giving birth to the twins alone in a hospital. She relies on her sister to act as a liaison for her due to her husband’s disapproval. Back in the US, Lisa and Brian face backlash after an appearance on national television telling their story, many people saying that they are taking advantage of Aasia’s poor living conditions to pay her less. In the end of the film, Sinha and Haimowitz highlight how Aasia is in fact cheated out of money promised to her via contractual obligations. The film highlights how assistive reproductive technology, left unregulated, becomes ethically muddled. They also demonstrate how little all parties involved care for the rights of the surrogate mother. The medical tourism liaisons at the end of the film speak about attending conferences to set up regulations and guidelines, but lack regard for the human and economic rights of their surrogates.
What I have taken from all of these sources is that assistive reproduction technologies must be strictly regulated within a pluralistic context to ensure the people involved are protected.
Swasti Bhattacharya, Magical Progeny, Modern Technology: A Hindu Bioethics of Reproductive Technology (Suny University Press, 2006).
Michael J. Broyde, “Modern Reproductive Technologies and Jewish Law,” In Michael J. Broyde and Michael Ausubel editors, Marriage, Sex and the Family in Judaism (Rowman and Littlefield, 2005), pp. 295-328.
Made in India~Owned Content – Emory University, 2010. Kanopy. Web. 13 Jun. 2020.