'Outsourcing' reproduction in contemporary Spain: intercountry adoption, gamete and embryo provision, surrogacy
During the final decade of the XX Century, Spain, Italy, Portugal, Greece, Poland and Ireland had critical fertility rate levels. Among the six countries mentioned, Spain offers the most extreme example.
Between 1960 and 1975, Spain’s Total Fertility Rate, this is the children per woman, amounted well above the European average. In this last year, 1975, the Spanish Total Fertility Rate was one of the highest in Europe.
Ethnographic evidence shows that during the 1980s people from other countries went to Spain looking for babies and children to adopt. Two decades later, in 1995, the Total Fertility Rate in Spain was one of the lowest in the world which continued throughout during the 1990s and beyond.
Spain’s plummeting fertility since the late twentieth century may seem to reflect waning desire for children. But, in fact, Spain has one of the largest ‘child gaps,’ the average difference between desired and actual children (Bernardi 2005), in the European Union. The shift is a consequence of reproductive disappointments resulting from gender inequality in the labor market and poorly funded family support policies. These factors cause many Spanish women to delay childbearing beyond early adulthood and, consequently, to eventually experience age-related fertility problems.
Between 1990 and 2004, the number of Spanish transnational adoptions increased by 273% (two hundred and seventy three per cent). This spike made Spain the second largest receiving country only after the United States.
In 2016, the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology report showed a continuing expansion of the number of assisted reproductive treatments in Europe and Spain. Europe is considered the largest market for Assisted Reproductive Technologies in the world, and Spain is the European country with the largest number of treatments of assisted reproductive technologies and the third in the world. It is a popular destination for citizens living in countries where gamete or embryo ‘donation’ is not allowed, and countries where it is no longer anonymous.
In this paper I would like to think about the relationship between adoption and the third party reproductive technologies, which include fertility medication, artificial insemination, in vitro fertilization, gamete and embryo provision and surrogacy. More concretely, I am going to suggest that we could think about all of these practices as falling under a larger umbrella of “third party reproduction” and/or “assisted procreation technologies” using Howell and Melhuus’s term (Howell and Melhuus 2007).
In everyday contexts, we tend to think of adoption as fundamentally different from third party reproduction. In large part, this is because third party reproduction as well as the discourse around them are highly medicalized, while this is not the case for adoption. But in this paper, I want to make the case for viewing adoption as one in a range of forms of ‘third party’ reproduction.