Morals or markets? Regulating assisted reproductive technologies as morality or economic policies in the states

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Background: The availability of assisted reproductive technologies (ARTs) in the medical marketplace complicates our understanding of reproductive public policy in the United States. Political debates over ARTs often are based on fundamental moral principles of life, reproduction, and kinship, similar to other reproductive policies in the United States. However, ARTs are an important moneymaking private enterprise for the U.S. biotechnology industry. This project investigates how the U.S. states regulate these unique and challenging technologies as either moral policies or economic policies. Methods: This study employs ordinary least squares (OLS) regression to estimate the significance of morality and economic policy variables on ART policies at the state level, noting associations between state-level political, economic, and gender variables on restrictive and permissive state-level ART policies. Results: Economic variables (reflecting the biotechnology industry) and advocacy for access to ART on behalf of infertility patients increase the chances of states passing policies that enable consumer use of ARTs. Additionally, individual ART policies are distinct from one another in the ways that morality variables increase the chances of ART regulations. Surprisingly, the role of religious adherence among state residents varied in positive and negative relationships with individual policy passage. Conclusions: In general, these results support the hypothesis that ART laws are associated with economic as well as moral concerns of the states—ARTs lie at the intersection of issues of life and reproduction and of scientific innovation and health. What is most striking about these results is that they do not follow patterns seen in the legislation of abortion, contraception, and sexuality in general—those reproductive policies that are considered “morality policy.” Similarly, economic variables are not consistently significant in the expected direction.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)58-67
Number of pages10
JournalAJOB Empirical Bioethics
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2 2017

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Health(social science)
  • Philosophy
  • Health Policy


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