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Regulating Lesbian Motherhood: Gender, Sexuality and Medically Assisted Reproduction in Portugal†
University of Minho, Instituto de Ciências Sociais, Campus de Gualtar, Braga 4710–047, Portugal
† This text is based on empirical data gathered by the first author for her master thesis in Sociology entitled “They should find a man”: Representations of medical doctors and judges about medically assisted lesbian motherhood, developed under the supervision of Professor Alexandra Lopes and publicly defended on November 2012 at the Faculty of Arts of the University of Porto (Portugal).
* Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Received: 12 September 2013; in revised form: 28 October 2013 / Accepted: 19 November 2013 / Published: 26 November 2013
Abstract: This article analyses juridical discourses about Medically Assisted Reproduction (MAR) in Portugal, focusing specifically on the access of lesbians to this type of intervention. Empirical data refer to an exploratory research that combined the analysis of legislation with non-directive interviews to five judges from Family and Juvenile Courts of Law of the Northern Region of Portugal. One argues that the representation of motherhood present in the law reinforces and reproduces normative sexuality and femininity while simultaneously justifies the exclusion of lesbians from MAR. As such, although Portuguese legislation emerges as a mechanism of partial deregulation of the gender regime since it appears to weaken the practical and causal association between sexuality and procreation, in fact, it ends up reinforcing dominant ideas of femininity and family. As for the judges who were interviewed, their representations of motherhood are broad enough to encompass medically assisted motherhood and/or motherhood accomplished within a lesbian couple. This is achieved through a process of normalisation of the lesbian and/or of lesbian motherhood, which may resort to five different assumptions: (i) parenthood as a desire inherent to every human being; (ii) motherhood as a defining element of femininity; (iii) motherhood as a project framed by a stable conjugal relationship; (iv) lesbian motherhood as something that can be accomplished through “natural” means; (v) parenthood as a mechanism of social reproduction of the gender regime. These assumptions are differently combined and support different positions regarding lesbian motherhood: although some judges seem to concur with the preservation of heteronormativity, most favour legal changes to encompass other models of sexuality and family.
Keywords: lesbian motherhood; medically assisted reproduction; juridical discourses; representations; gender
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Machado, T.C.; Brandão, A.M. Regulating Lesbian Motherhood: Gender, Sexuality and Medically Assisted Reproduction in Portugal. Laws 2013, 2, 469-482.
Machado TC, Brandão AM. Regulating Lesbian Motherhood: Gender, Sexuality and Medically Assisted Reproduction in Portugal. Laws. 2013; 2(4):469-482.
Machado, Tânia C.; Brandão, Ana M. 2013. "Regulating Lesbian Motherhood: Gender, Sexuality and Medically Assisted Reproduction in Portugal." Laws 2, no. 4: 469-482.