“It helped that I’m a middle class, educated, white lady”: Normative bodies within fertility clinics


  • Lisa Melville Te Whare Wānanga o Waikato | The University of Waikato.


heteronormativity, queer, lesbian, assisted reproductive technologies, family


INTRODUCTION: Fertility clinics, and the assisted reproductive technologies undertaken within them, hold the possibility of creating an eclectic mix of families. Fertility clinics are sites where several fields such as technology, ethics, profit, law, policy, and bodies, intersect with the construction of family. What might the experiences of queer women within fertility clinics in Aotearoa New Zealand indicate about how these fields collude and collide with the notions of the right to have a child, delivering accessible services, and how regulations are applied?

METHODS: This study used a qualitative, multi-methods approach. I conducted 27 face-to-face semi-structured interviews and ran an online survey (88 responses). Questions focused around the decision making and experiences of lesbian women in conception, maternity and family spaces.

FINDINGS: This research found the path to, and through, fertility clinics in Aotearoa New Zealand may be easier for those who embody privilege, that is those who present as white, wealthy, heterosexual, and feminine. Exclusions are practised through policy, wording, inference, and behaviour.

IMPLICATIONS: Fertility clinics demonstrate the inequity of reproductive justice. Normative understandings underpin the right to have a child, accessible services, and the application of regulations. These understandings work to trouble paths to parenthood, not only for lesbians, but for many others within and across a variety of other groups. Access to, and movement through, these spaces can strongly reinforce narrow understandings of family. Fertility clinics not only create families, but also reproduce particular types of family.


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How to Cite

Melville, L. (2023). “It helped that I’m a middle class, educated, white lady”: Normative bodies within fertility clinics. Aotearoa New Zealand Social Work, 35(4), 112–124. Retrieved from https://anzswjournal.nz/anzsw/article/view/1019