Choosing Motherhood...

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Dorothy Roberts focuses on the intersections of racial inequality and reproductive rights in chapter 7: The Meaning of Liberty. Here she proposes that liberty not only be viewed as a negative right protecting us from governmental harm, but that liberty should instead extend beyond this and serve to address social inequalities.

What is of primary concern is not just having the right to choose, but having access to the necessary resources in which to make an informed choice. Restrictions on welfare benefits in regards to procreation encourage temporary or permanent sterilization and in effect certain women "are penalized because the combination of their poverty, race, and marital status is seen to make them unworthy of procreating" (305). So the issue of choice here is not just whether or not women have access and means to birth control and/or abortion but also if they will be supported in motherhood and if they will valued in society.

The reproductive rights debate in this country seems to be always centered on the right of women to decide to have an abortion or to use birth control methods. To think of reproductive rights in terms of the right to motherhood is an all together different concept. I was not aware of the fact that often women on welfare are essentially coerced into preventing pregnancy and will not receive more benefits with more births. That a woman potentially has this to weigh in regards to her decisions of becoming a mother echoes of involuntary sterilization.

Comments

  1. "So the issue of choice here is not just whether or not women have access and means to birth control and/or abortion but also if they will be supported in motherhood and if they will valued in society."

    Well put, Ava. Human value plays a significant role in societal perceptions/coercions regarding choice and reproduction. Coerced sterilizations, as Roberts discusses, and the targeting of Black women (by organizations such as The Radiance Foundation, as seen earlier on the blog), raises questions pertaining to personhood, human rights, and, of course, choice -- whose choices are we considering and whose are we forgetting... and what does choice mean to begin with? When the state controls women's reproduction, women become social and political mechanisms -- and like you said, it echoes (painstakingly) of forced sterilization. Remember Roberts's statement that "Government control of reproduction in the name of science masks racist and classist judgments about who deserves to have children. It is grounded on the premise that people who depart from social norms do not deserve to procreate" -- undeserving, unworthy -- so what makes a person deserving or worthy of personhood? of human life? of dignity and respect? and who decides? Where do we find our model of legitimate personhood?

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This page contains a single entry by Ava published on February 7, 2010 10:00 PM.

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