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Ova provision in Romania: Identity dynamics and exclusionary practices

Ova provision in Romania: Identity dynamics and exclusionary practices
Alexandra Gruian


Centre for Interdisciplinary Gender Studies, University of Leeds, Leeds LS2 9JT, UNITED KINGDOM.


This research investigates the social and political framings and experiences of actors involved or concerned with ova exchanges following two cases of cross-border ova ‘trafficking’ from Romania. I explore the impact that these two cases have had on the subsequent regulation of ova provision in the country, and on the procurement of female gametes for IVF treatments.

During eight months of ethnography in Romania I interviewed 37 participants from various backgrounds connected to the world of IVF. I conducted observation in medical and institutional settings, and analysed relevant EU and Romanian regulations, as well as media stories related to ova ‘trafficking’.

My findings show that, following the ova commercialisation cases, Romanian authorities have established an official regime of ova provision rooted in a set of regulations, institutions, and practices that ensure all exchanges are ‘free and altruistic’. However, the regime’s ambiguity has allowed its circumvention by IVF patients and ova providers, who sometimes engage in direct monetary exchanges. Additionally, the regime has attracted the criticism of many stakeholders, who have engaged in identity performances to legitimise their claims. Nevertheless, power differentials and the challenging of the identities of those opposing the regime have curtailed attempts at changing the current framing of ova provision, with practical and ethical consequences that affect the most vulnerable: infertile persons and ova providers.

This thesis is the first to give an in-depth understanding of Romanian ova provision. Rooted in STS scholarship, my findings contribute to the understanding of ova provision ‘in the making’, as it is enacted in a multiplicity of contexts, under the action of a diversity of apparatuses. I challenge the country’s portrayal as a victim of exploitation and emphasise its role as a consumer of foreign reproductive services, arguing for a more nuanced approach to the analysis of reproductive stratification.