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About Alison Motluk
I am a Toronto-based journalist with a strong interest in reproductive technology. I write about the science and medicine that make it possible, about the policies and attitudes that influence how it’s carried out, and about the social fallout, both for the individuals directly involved and for our wider society.
My interest dates back almost fifteen years, to when I first learned about donor offspring who wanted to meet family members connected through their sperm donors. One of my early stories on that subject was about a 15-year-old boy who was the first to track down his anonymous sperm donor using only the internet and his own spit.
I became, and remain, deeply interested in the stories of donor offspring. These are people breaking entirely new social ground. My two-part documentary, Brave New Family, which aired on CBC radio IDEAS in 2007, was about sperm donor offspring — what it’s like to be one, to be the parent of one and to search for (and sometimes find) members of your donor tribe. Over the years, I have also written about donor grandparenthood, extended families created through sperm donation and what people do when they stumble upon an anonymous donor’s real identity.
I have also been interested in legal and policy issues surrounding reproductive technology. In 2004, for instance, the Canadian Parliament passed a law that, among other things, prohibited payment for eggs, sperm, embryos and surrogacy. While the intent was well-meaning — to prevent exploitation, to avoid the commercialization of human life — the consequences have been disastrous. Doctors, lawyers, would-be parents and donors have for 15 years effectively been operating in a legal grey space. Everyone was forced to take risks. I chronicle some of that in “The Human Egg Trade” and "Anatomy of a Surrogacy" and am now watching with interest as the new regulations are being rolled out. Despite evidence of widespread lawbreaking, there has been only one conviction.
I am very interested in the medical risks to egg donors, which remain largely unstudied. I wrote "Is Egg Donation Dangerous?" and produced the radio documentary "Wanted: Egg donor in good health" on the topic. I also broke the story of the egg donor who, after having 45 eggs removed from her ovaries in Toronto, flew home to Florida and had a stroke.
For most of my career, I have been a science journalist, first interning at The Economist, then as a staff writer at New Scientist, and later as a freelancer, contributing to Quirks and Quarks, Nature, The Walrus, CMAJ News, O, The Oprah Magazine and others.
I’m drawn to reproductive technology for the same reason I lend it such a critical eye: because it is such a fast-moving and exciting area of science. I greeted the claim of ovarian stem cells with excitement even as I watched their premature commercialization with care.
I have no financial or personal ties to the fertility industry. I am female, heterosexual, married and have two children conceived without medical assistance. I am pro-choice and pro-contraception. I support gay marriage and gay parenthood. I endorse medical intervention in reproduction where needed. I believe that, in general, impartial regulation works better than industry self-regulation. I also believe that transparency is almost always better than secrecy.
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