The Stork and the Syringe: Political History of Reproductive Medicine / Edition 1

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Reproductive technology is typically discussed in the future tense. Yet doctors have always treated involuntary childlessness. This book looks at the recent history of infertility and the different ways medicine has treated it. It traces the reluctance to allow infertility a past to a new tension that has emerged between utopian and anti-utopian fears about the growth rate and composition of population.

The Stork and the Syringe argues that although doctors' approach to infertility is formed in response to the exigencies of the political economy of medical practice, it also accommodates a persistent gender bias: the tendency to regard women's bodies as inviting intervention and men's as demanding caution. This bias is manifest in relation to gametes (eggs and sperm), sex hormones, in the form of medical investigations and treatment, and the frequency and enthusiasm with which the latter are carried out. Departures from this theme are rare and controversial, as the history of artificial insemination using donor semen demonstrates.

This book is a major contribution to the history and sociology of reproduction, fertility, population and medicine.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
'Is a highly readable book, appealing to the general reader andessential for specialists in reproductive history.' Open LettersBookclub

'The Stork and the Syringe is an important contributionto the sociological and historical literature on women andreproduction.' Canadian Women's Studies

'Pfeffer's book is not only timely and invaluable for thecurrent debates on the morality and efficacy of reproductivetechnology, but also provides a stimulating and provocative accountfor anyone interested in the wider history of the interactionbetween medicine, economics, politics and gender.' MedicalHistory

'Pfeffer's work greatly informs this debate. It shows how wehave progressed beyond believing that women are under an obligationto have babies. It raises the question of whether we believe thatthey have the right, irrespective of costs, and despite any ethicaland legal objections, to have them.' British MedicalJournal

'... She offers much food for serious thought not least aboutthe distortions and inequity in the poor NHS provision ofinfertility treatments ...' Multiple Births FoundationNewsletter

'Uncovering some of the myths that have grown up aroundinfertility is an important task lucidly and interestingly carriedout by Naomi Pfeffer. Throughout this thoroughly annotated, butreadable, account Pfeffer considers not only the attitudes of themedical profession, but also those of the political and religiousestablishments, and the financial implications.' Bulletin ofMedical Ethics

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780745611877
  • Publisher: Wiley
  • Publication date: 12/16/1993
  • Series: Feminist Perspectives Series
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 250
  • Product dimensions: 6.06 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.71 (d)

Meet the Author

Naomi Pfeffer writes about history and social policy. She has a long-standing interest in women's experience of infertility and the politics of reproductive medicine, and has written extensively on the subject. She was the co-author of The Experience of Infertility, written with Anne Woollett.

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Table of Contents


1. Talking about Infertility.

2. Norms and Deviations.

3. Images of Sterility.

4. Politics, Health and Sterility.

5. A Crutch in the Crotch.

6. Bank Accounts and Babies.


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