HeyReprotech is a newsletter that reports and analyzes developments in assisted reproduction, including its widespread societal impacts. HeyReprotech is independent, ad-free and subscriber-funded. If you value this independent work, please become a paying subscriber for CAD 10/month or 99/year.
About Alison Motluk
I am a Toronto-based writer with a long-standing interest in assisted reproduction. 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 work has been acknowledged with seven National Magazine Awards, two awards for investigative reporting from the Canadian Association of Journalists, and an RTDNA broadcasting award, among others.
My interest in assisted reproduction dates back more than 15 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 in the world 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’s 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 government 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 were disastrous. Doctors, lawyers, would-be parents and donors were for 15 years effectively operating in a legal grey space. I chronicle some of that in "The Human Egg Trade," "Anatomy of a Surrogacy," and most recently in "Waiting Room."
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 worked as 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 know that women can make their own best choices. 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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What people are saying about HeyReprotech
"The only independent voice in a room filled with self-promoting interests."
—Dr. Arthur Leader, Fertility Specialist, Ottawa
"Refreshingly neutral, fair, even-handed. Patients and their care providers are together well served."
—Dr. Robert Stillman, Medical Director Emeritus, Shady Grove Fertility Center
“Brings to light ethical issues to which many want to turn a blind eye and gives voice to the stories of real people who are affected by much of what we do. I highly recommend subscribing to stay informed."
—Carole LieberWilkins, Marriage and Family Therapist
"Alison Motluk's dogged reporting in HeyReprotech is a must-read for anyone who has experienced the many flaws present in the art and practice of advanced reproductive care."
—Kirk Maxey, MD, CEO of Cayman Chemical, and former sperm donor
"I wish I had had HeyReprotech when I was exploring and experiencing surrogacy and egg donation. The world of IVF is an isolating and unknown adventure for most of us. HeyReprotech gives us a way to connect with others about their experiences and feel less alone, as well as giving valuable information about things we should be aware of and issues we need to be on guard about. It can help us avoid negative experiences by hearing others' stories. It can educate us on potential health risks and offer guidance in navigating issues that could occur even years later."
—Claire Hafner, former egg donor and surrogate