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REF NO.: 192

SUBJECT: Infertile Irish couples face complex issues

DATE: Feb. 23

On Friday, Feb. 24, a medical anthropology researcher at Memorial University will discuss the complex social, political and medical interactions that face Irish couples struggling with infertility.

Jill Allison, a PhD candidate, says the traditional view of the family as being a man, a woman and at least one child remains a deeply held ideal. Her research is exploring how people are able to fit themselves into this definition of family if they are unable to have children.

In interviewing about three dozen Irish couples, Ms. Allison found a great reluctance to talk openly about fertility problems. “They felt very insecure about the issue in general. I talked to couples who had not even shared this with their own families,” she said.

While the science of procreation creates complex debate everywhere, it’s even more complicated in Ireland where, unlike in Canada, the unborn are guaranteed “right to life” protection in the constitution. The Irish government is now beginning to formulate legislation regarding reproductive technologies, Ms. Allison said. “They’ll have to interpret what ‘unborn’ means in terms of in vitro fertilization. Does it include fertilized embryos that are not implanted, that are frozen? There are so many subtle contradictions in this area.”

Religious teachings and political controversy are only part of the pressure these couples faced, she learned. Because family and children represent such a significant social value, they also had to deal with the expectations of relatives and friends.

Jill Allison will offer a public talk on what her conversations with Irish couples facing fertility issues reveal as part of the Women’s Studies Speakers Series on Friday, Feb. 24, in the Science Building, room SN-4087, from 12 -1:30 p.m.

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For further information, please contact Leslie Vryenhoek, communications co-ordinator, Faculty of Arts, at 737-8292 or


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