Giulia Zanini

Zanini pictureBeyond the law: public and private engagements with donor conception in Italy

After 10 years of legal ban on donor conception, Italy faces an apparently new reproductive era, where this practice is supposed to be available locally. Despite that, data show that only one third of possibly interested intended parents are having access to this technique locally and that the vast majority of donor gametes are being bought from banks abroad, due to lack of available local donors. Moreover, donor conception remains theoretically available only for heterosexual couples.

This paper presents the very peculiar and paradoxical approaches to donor conception that characterise the contemporary Italian context, where public initiatives, including judicial and public health’s actions, together with private experiences and accounts by transnational reproductive travellers contribute to the emergence of a new local reproductive culture. Donor conception appears as a reality to people’s lives despite an evident public national resistance to tackle this topic on a legal level and is possible only through constant transnational reproductive mobilities.

Through the analysis of this context, I will explore how public and private efforts around both promoting and limiting donor conception are intertwined with a spread national anxiety around private and national reproductive futures. Moreover, I will underline how transnational flows of people and gametes take part in the ways in which discourses and practices of national reproduction are shaped and made public.

Giulia Zanini currently is a Post-doc on the ERC research project “BAR2LEGAB”, investigating the impact of women of barriers to access to legal abortion in Europe. She is affiliated to the University of Barcelona (Department of Anthroplogy) and is undertaking a mixed-methods research on cross-country abortion travels in England (UK). She obtained a PhD  at the European University Institute (EUI) in 2013 with a dissertation entitled “Transnational Reproduction: Experiences of Italian Reproductive Travellers Receiving Donor Gametes and Embryos Abroad”, in which she examines the moral, cultural and physical experiences of Italian intended parents facing a local ban on donor conception and crossing Italian borders to receive donor eggs, sperm and embryos. Afterwards, she participated in (IN)Fercit, an interdisciplinary project based at the University of the Aegean, where she was responsible for a comparative study of assisted reproductive technologies in six neighboring countries (Bulgaria, Cyprus, Greece, Italy, Lebanon, Spain, and Turkey), focusing on the transnational reproductive mobilities from to and across such countries. Until May 2017 she was a Marie Curie – Piscopia PostDoctotal Fellow at the University of Padova (IT), where she focused on the qualitative account of the increasing socio-demographic phenomenon of permanent childlessness. Her work combines medical anthropology, anthropology of kinship, science and technology studies (STS) and feminist studies. Her main research areas concern family and kinship, reproductive medicine, religion, gender, family and health policies and citizenship.

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