Making Women Pay: The Hidden Costs of Fetal Rights

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Once backed primarily by anti-abortion activists, fetal rights claims are now promoted by a wide range of interest groups in American society. Government and corporate policies to define and enforce fetal rights have become commonplace. These developments affect all women—pregnant or not—because women are considered "potentially pregnant" for much of their lives. In her powerful and important book, Rachel Roth brings a new perspective to the debate over fetal rights. She clearly delineates the threat to women's equality posed by the new concept of "maternal-fetal conflict," an idea central to the fetal rights movement in which women and fetuses are seen as having interests that are diametrically opposed. Roth begins by placing fetal rights politics in historical and comparative context and by tracing the emergence of the notion of fetal rights. Against a backdrop of gripping stories about actual women, she reviews the difficulties fetal rights claims create for women in the areas of employment, health care, and drug and alcohol regulation. She looks at court cases and state legislation over a period of two decades beginning in 1973, the year of the Roe v. Wade decision legalizing abortion. Her exhaustive research shows how judicial decisions and public policies that grant fetuses rights tend to displace women as claimants, as recipients of needed services, and ultimately as citizens. When a corporation, medical authority, or the state asserts or accepts rights claims on behalf of a fetus, the usual justification involves improving the chance of a healthy birth. This strategy, Roth persuasively argues, is not necessary to achieve the goal of a healthy birth, is often counterproductive to it, and always undermines women's equal standing.
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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Rachel Roth has written a compelling, important book about women, fetuses, and inequality, building on and contributing to a growing body of research on the social and political significance of fetal subjects. . . . Roth is the first to offer an in-depth, comprehensive overview of the contemporary terrain of fetal rights."—Monica J. Casper, University of California, Santa Cruz. Contemporary Sociology, Vol. 30, No. 4

"Making Women Pay is an outstanding book. . . ."—Kate Greene, Department of Political Science, University of Southern Mississippi. The Law and Politics Book Review. October, 2000.

"Making Women Pay is a small but powerful book that forces the reader to make a significant paradigm shift. . . An extremely well-researched and comprehensive examination of policy and law. . . . Rachel Roth has written a book that should be required reading for health professionals dealing with women and their fetuses, politicians and legislators who hold a woman's liberty in their hands, and bioethicists who are asked to consult on many of these complicated issues. . . . I would add, we can't afford not to read this book!"—Ian R. Holzman, MD, Mount Sinai School of Medicine. Journal of the American Medical Women's Association. Fall, 2000

"Roth's scrupulously researched book. . . documents an assault on women's rights waged in the name of fetal rights. . . . Highly recommended at all levels."—Choice. September, 2000.

"Against a backdrop of gripping stories about actual women's legal experiences. . . this book reveals how judicial decisions and public policies that grant fetal rights tend to displace women's rights. . . Comprehensive."—Janet Gellman, Banana Slug Bulletin, Spring 2001

"Rachel Roth is a fine scholar; I'm impressed by how smart she is and how well she has handled this complex terrain."—Rickie Solinger, author of Wake Up Little Susie: Single Pregnancy and Race Before Roe v. Wade

"Rachel Roth provides an exhaustive study of judicial and legislative actions regarding fetal rights between 1973 and 1992. Her analysis surpasses previous treatments of the topic by providing a more thorough account of state actions and by developing an innovative theoretical approach for assessing the costs of fetal rights concepts to women's employment, citizenship, and freedom. Roth's cogent analysis makes a significant contribution to our understanding of the political implications of this highly charged issue."—Carole McCann, University of Maryland, Baltimore County

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780801488801
  • Publisher: Cornell University Press
  • Publication date: 8/1/2003
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 264
  • Product dimensions: 5.68 (w) x 8.93 (h) x 0.20 (d)

Table of Contents

List of Tables
1 How Women Pay for Fetal Rights 1
2 Backlash and Continuity: The Political Trajectory of Fetal Rights 17
3 Fighting Fetal Protection Policies: Women and Corporate Risk Management I 37
4 Overcoming Discrimination: Women and Corporate Risk Management II 59
5 "No Less than Ravishment": Forcing Medical Interventions on Pregnant Women 89
6 Behaving Badly: Punishing Women for Conduct during Pregnancy 135
7 The Costs of Inequality 184
App Selected State Statutes 197
Bibliography 203
Index 231
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