, Volume 17, Issue 3, pp 333-344
Date: 23 Oct 2009

The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 2008: Tinkering at the Margins

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This note suggests that, viewed from a feminist perspective, the reforms contained in the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 2008 represent a missed opportunity to re-think the appropriate model of regulation to govern fertility treatment and embryology research in the UK. It argues that reform of the legislation was driven largely by the government’s desire to avoid re-igniting controversies over the legal status of the embryo and abortion and to maintain Britain’s position at the forefront of embryo research and related biotechnologies. It also highlights the importance of media debates, which were highly selective, to the reform process, and suggests that in order to inject feminist values into the process of legislative reform, feminists need to become more media savvy. In the short term, it suggests that there is little prospect of a radical re-thinking of the appropriate ethico-legal response to the wide variety of family forms that reproductive technologies potentially enable, much less of considering our ethical obligations to the new forms of embryos that are now permitted by the 2008 Act. In the meantime, however, it argues that these issues provide productive opportunities for feminist legal theorists to address questions that have been erased or obscured in the course of the 2008 reforms.