The Infertility Treadmill

Feminist Ethics, Personal Choice, and the Use of Reproductive Technologies

By Karey Harwood

The Infertility Treadmill

240 pp., 6.125 x 9.25, 2 tables, appends., notes, bibl., index

  • Paperback ISBN: 978-0-8078-5847-9
    Published: November 2007

Studies in Social Medicine

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Combining attention to lived experience with the critical tools of ethics, Karey Harwood explores why many women who use high-tech assisted reproduction methods tend to use them repeatedly, even when the results are unsuccessful. With a compassionate look at the individual decision making behind the desire to become pregnant and the use of assisted reproductive technologies (ART), Harwood extends the public conversation beyond debates about individual choice by considering the experiences of families and by addressing the broader ethical problems presented by these technologies.

Incorporating the personal narratives of women who are members of RESOLVE, the nation's leading organization for people who are infertile, Harwood demonstrates that repeated unsuccessful attempts to use ART may ironically help women come to terms with their infertility. Yet ART is problematic for a number of reasons, including the financial, physical, and emotional costs for women and their families as well as the effects of these technologies on the health and well-being of the children conceived. Issues such as consumerism, workplace norms that encourage delayed childbearing, and narrow definitions of family all come into play. By considering both emotional and ethical dimensions, Harwood offers a humanistic account of infertility and its resolution in a twenty-first-century American context.

About the Author

Karey Harwood is associate professor of philosophy and religion at North Carolina State University.
For more information about Karey Harwood, visit the Author Page.


"Raises important ethical issues. . . . An exceptional contribution to the growing body of work on assisted reproductive technology. . . . Would make a fine addition to a unit on women and reproduction in an upper-division course. . . . Will provide students with a lively exchange of ideas and concepts."--Feminist Formations

"Harwood offers an in-depth ethnographic study of decision making and 'meaning making' by infertile individuals and couples. Integrating theory and participant-observation without sacrificing the accessibility or readability of the text, she successfully demonstrates how ethical analysis is enriched by systematic attention to the lived moral experience of people on the ground. This is a valuable book, not only for specialists in bioethics, but for anyone who thinks about childbearing and family life--and the choices people make about them--in our contemporary culture."--Maura A. Ryan, University of Notre Dame

"Interesting, well written, and timely, The Infertility Treadmill introduces ethical interventions that are original and significant to our public discourse about assisted reproductive technologies. Harwood brings a distinctive voice to the ongoing conversation among feminists and others about how to evaluate new reproductive technologies and women's desire to use them."--Monica J. Casper, Vanderbilt University