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Soc Sci Med. 2013 Apr;83:90-8. doi: 10.1016/j.socscimed.2013.01.002. Epub 2013 Jan 17.

'Emotional rights', moral reasoning, and Jewish-Arab alliances in the regulation of in-vitro-fertilization in israel: theorizing the unexpected consequences of assisted reproductive technologies.

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Hebrew University of Jerusalem, 91905 Jerusalem, Israel.


Consumption rates of assisted reproductive technologies (ARTs) in Israel is internationally unprecedented, a phenomenon that has been the subject of growing anthropological and sociological attention. Explanations for the singular extent of ARTs use in Israel tend to pre-assume and conceptually prioritize the symbolic and political power of pro-natalist discourses, Jewish religious values, and the demographic interests of the Jewish state. This article attempts to understand the exceptional usage of IVF in Israel in terms of its emergent meanings and unexpected effects in a particular local setup. The question that this article tries to answer is: How is the 'Israeli character' of IVF emerges within and through the interactive practice of moral justifications, and how might this medical technology affect the networks within which it is enmeshed? The article is based on a case-study analysis of a public dispute that took place in 2003-2004 over the extent of public funding for fertility treatments. Ethnographic analysis of parliament discussions, media coverage, and an online forum of IVF consumers recorded three frames of justification for the uniquely generous public funding scheme of IVF in Israel: 'rational-economic', 'nationalist', and 'liberal'. The latter assumes shared 'emotional vulnerability' of all 'childless' Israelis, Jews and Arabs alike and advocates a universal language of 'emotional rights' and 'human rights'. This liberal framing of IVF, which is the most persuasive justification in the dispute, blurs dichotomous rivalries between Jews and Arabs and generates a potential for alliances between traditionally rival sectors. These are some of the unexpected and non-intuitive consequences of ARTs in Israel.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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