International Conference “Postponed Motherhood and the Ethics of the Family” – CALL FOR ABSTRACTS



International Conference

“Postponed Motherhood and the Ethics of the Family”


Goettingen (Germany), 14-15 October 2014


organized by


The Network of Family Ethics

and the

Department of Medical Ethics and History of Medicine

Goettingen University, Germany


Keynote speakers:

Ulrik Kihlbom (SWE), Heidi Mertes (BEL), Guido Pennings (BEL), Marian Verkerk (NED), Claudia Wiesemann (GER)


funded by

Strategic Partnership U4 Network of the German Academic Exchange Service


Advances in reproductive medicine, like in-vitro fertilization and germ cell donation, have a high potential to change dramatically our perception of family and parenthood. Recent research in reproductive medicine focusses on infertility due to advanced age. Within the last ten years, it has become possible to store oocytes by cryopreservation. Due to this improvement in egg-cell vitrification, the option for healthy women to freeze their unfertilised egg cells, so-called ‘social freezing’ (SF), is now likely to become clinical routine. The technology of egg freezing initially served to provide women with cancer an opportunity to have children in spite of chemotherapy and toxic damage to their ovaries. In the meantime, the practitioners of reproductive medicine are increasingly offering this opportunity to healthy women as well. Young women can have their eggs frozen in order to have them fertilized, and thus fulfill their desire to have a child, at a later point in time, even after menopause.

What might be celebrated as making strides toward gender equality, actually has given rise to a widespread sense of unease. Criticism has been sparked by incidents where older women, some even above age 60, have borne a child after egg donation. Critics have also voiced objections against SF technology on similar grounds.

Ethical questions have been raised with regard to reproductive autonomy, gender equality, child wellbeing and family privacy. SF might change the way motherhood – and parenthood as well – is perceived and normatively constructed. We will discuss this new technology, compare different legal and ethical approaches in European countries and beyond and discuss the normative concepts in light of a family-ethics approach. We invite presentations from philosophy, bioethics, medicine, theology, social sciences and the law.

Conference language will be English. Presentations should not exceed 20 minutes. On request, a limited number of travel grants for young researchers (postgraduate, and postdoc in their first years, depending on whether their itinerary is national, European or transatlantic) can be awarded to successful applicants.

The conference will be held in Goettingen, Germany. The romantic town is famous for its old university founded in the period of Enlightenment. It has been home to celebrities like the Brothers Grimm and the mathematician Carl Friedrich Gauss. Goettingen is situated right in the middle of Germany at about a two-hour ride from Berlin, Hamburg, or Frankfurt.


Please send an abstract of your presentation (max. 400 words) via email by
March 15, 2014 at the latest to the organizers of the conference. Successful applicants will be informed by April 30, 2014.



Stephanie Bernstein:

Dept. for Medical Ethics and History of Medicine

Goettingen University Medical Centre

Humboldtallee 36

D-37073 Goettingen


phone +49-(0)551-39-9009).