Sigrid Vertommen

Siggie Portrait 2016 ©Beniamin Boar“Resistance is Fertile”: Sperm smuggling and birth strikes for reproductive justice in Israel/Palestine

The State of Israel is known for its pronatalist stance concerning the usage, regulation and subsidising of assisted reproductive technologies, including IVF, egg donation, surrogacy and PGD in order to guarantee the highly valued right of genetic parenthood for its citizenry. Yet, critical scholars have rightly argued that Israel’s pronatalism is a selective one, primarily aimed to serve the reproductive rights of its Jewish population for the consolidation of a Jewish demographic majority, at the expense of the indigenous Palestinian population (Portuguese, 1998; Kanaaneh, 2002; Nahman, 2014). This presentation aims to unsettle Israel’s stratified “reproductive-demographic nexus” from a settler colonial and biocapitalist perspective. Rather than understanding Israel’s fertility policies in terms of reproductive rights, desires and freedom of choice, it will foreground a reproductive justice framework that takes struggle, contestation and resistance in/through the reproductive sphere as conceptual and political points of departure. By looking into two particular instances of reproductive sabotage, i.e. sperm smuggling by Palestinian political prisoners and the birth strike promoted by the Gays Against Surrogacy collective, I want to explore how practices of (assisted) reproduction can materialise as an equally stratified site of resistance and empowerment in Israel/Palestine.

Sigrid Vertommen is Marie Curie Research Fellow at the Department of Global Health & Social Medicine at King’s College London. She is conducting qualitative research on the political economy of global fertility chains, with an empirical focus on the fertility chain between Israel/Palestine and Georgia.