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Reproductive Rights.docx

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Social Science
SOSC 1350
Julie Dowsett

March 14, 2012 R EPRODUCTIVE R IGHTS P ART I 1. The Scope and Nature of Reproductive Rights  When people speak of reproductive rights, they’re usually talking about abortion (a very high profile issue), however, reproductive rights encompasses more than just abortion  Reproductive rights: legal rights and freedoms relating both reproduction and reproductive health  Because of women playing a central role within reproduction, feminists have contended that reproductive rights are women’s rights, but they don’t just encompass woman’s rights, they can also encompass the human rights of men (i.e., men have been sterilized against their will just as women have)  Rests on the recognition of the basic rights of people (men and women) to decide freely, responsibly, and without constraint the number, spacing and timing of their children and have the information and means to do so (e.g., information about birth control and accessing safe forms of birth control)  Also encompass the right of everyone to make decisions about their own reproduction free from discrimination, coercion and violence  Historically speaking, reproductive rights have been conceptualized around 4 of the following issues 1. The right to access contraception – the right to birth control 2. Sterilization – the right not to be sterilized against your will or coerced into sterilization 3. Abortion – reproductive rights have included the right to a legal and safe abortion, the right not to have your fetus aborted against your will 4. Health care – the right to access quality reproductive health care and the right to education and access in order to make free and informed decisions about reproductive health  Today, with the advent of new reproductive technology, the range of issues extend far beyond these 4 issues (i.e., genetic testing, aborting female/disabled fetuses, in vitro fertilization, surrogacy, newer forms of abortion that are less invasive etc.)  In the contemporary context, there are a number of other issues that would be encompassed by the term reproductive rights 2. Reproductive Rights and the Eugenics Movement a. Social Darwinism applied "survival of the fittest" to human social life  Recall: scientific racism and social Darwinism from last term – applies Darwin’s theory of “survival of the fittest” to human social life  The first person to do so was Herbert Spencer (1820-1903)  Social Darwinists like Spencer applied this concept in order to attempt to explain differences between groups. He and his contemporaries believed that there is a hierarchy between inferiority and superiority within social groups  Very much related to scientific racism – this position held that white Europeans were the most highly evolved and white European men were the most highly evolved out of all Europeans b. Term “eugenics” coined by Francis Galton (1883) to refer to "good breeding"  Disability relates to social Darwinism – laws concerning the practices of eugenics  “Eugenics” was a termed coined by Galton to refer to “good breeding” 1 c. Underpinned by the idea that "likes beget likes"  This theory at the time suggested that likes beget likes – there are similar physical attributes between one and one’s biological parents, and it can also be read to refer to genetics and genetic disease. In the late 19 century this meant something very different then today - i.e., prostitutes beget prostitutes – this had nothing to do with the larger social, economic aspects, rather it had everything to do with biology and genetics. If you’re poor it’s because you have an inferior body, genetically speaking  Women with disabilities were seen as particularly problematic in this eugenics likes beget likes discourse and disability was often associated with race. People who weren’t white middle class (i.e., aboriginal people, people of color) were seen as disabled by their “disingenuous biology”  Social reformers aimed to control these “progressions” of the human race by instituting policies and legislation that would ensure “fit”(race, class were “good genes) members of society would procreate (positive eugenics) and those “unfit” (lesser genes because they were poor or because they were people of color or from Eastern Europe etc.) for reproduction would not (negative eugenics) d. "Positive eugenics" versus "negative eugenics"  Social reformers aimed to control these “progressions” of the human race by instituting policies and legislation that would ensure “fit”(race, class were “good genes) members of society would procreate (positive eugenics) and those “unfit” (lesser genes because they were poor or because they were people of color or from Eastern Europe etc.) for reproduction would not (negative eugenics)  Positive eugenics – e.g., attempt in Quebec in increase the birthrates of white catholic francophones. Over the course of the 20 century, immigration from places like france declined and immigration from places like Algeria increased and there was this concern that non-white francophones would take over and there was this need to increase the white catholic francophone birthrate  Negative eugenics - e.g., Sexual Sterilization Act in Alberta as well as the Sexual Sterilization Act of B.C (1933) 3. Sterilization in Canadian Law  B.C act was implemented to a lesser degree than the Alberta act a. Sexual Sterilization Act (Alberta, 1928-1972)  In Alberta and other jurisdiction parallels were made between people and the development of crops and the breeding of cattle – it was seen that if science could determine which crops and domestic animals were superior, then the same could be done with human race  Canadian eugenicists sought their intellectual inspiration from England and the U.S.  It was considered a “progressive” reform movement that was led and supported by academics and activists in medicine, public health, social work and other university institutions, especially biology and psychology  Canadian eugenicists envied the legislative acceptance of colleagues in the U.S. who got laws through state legislatures that sanctioned sterilization of “defective” people, and restrict immigration  Outside of B.C and Alberta, eugenicists in Canada never had this kind of legislation  Social engineers world-wide worked to pass laws and create policies that would have the so-called “feebleminded” confined to institutions and eventually sterilized to prevent the propagation of these so-called “unfit” members of society 2  The first book study of eugenics in Canada was called Our Own Master Race  Women were vastly overrepresented in the sterilization reforms  The probability of sterilization was twice if you were a woman  Studies have demonstrated that the vast majority of cases showed no evidence of a genetic disorder at all. Standard for “normal” was different for women and men o Women’s family histories that were marred by promiscuity, flirting, dancing, potential for sexual indiscretions were often enough grounds for sterilization.  Alberta’s peak for sterilization years happened during the 50s and 60s – a time when other jurisdictions were shamed in determining their eugenics programs as the horrors of Hitler’s eugenics program were very well known b. E. (Mrs.) v. Eve (SCC, 1986)  A judgment by the SCC regarding a mother’s request for the consent of court to have her daughter sterilized (her daughter was, in the language of the 1980s, developmentally challenged)  This was a landmark case because for the first time in Canadian law it was established that people had a right not be sterilized against your will – her daughter was not consenting  The SCC held that a non-therapeutic sterilization without consent can never be in the best interest. Despite this, sterilization continues to be pushed amongst people who have developmental challenges 4. Ableism, Genetic Testing and the AHRA a. Ableism in pro-choice movement  Prior to landmark court decisions, there was a lot of ableism in the pro-choice movement b. Able-bodied feminists assumed (correctly) there was a wider base of public support for allowing a woman to refuse to carry either a rapist's fetus or a so-called "handicapped" fetus  Feminists often assumed that they on stronger grounds in arguing for abortion in 2 particular situations: 1) when a woman was based 2) when her fetus was likely to be disabled  Many contemporary feminists have critiqued this. On the one hand they had the ability to terminate an unwanted pregnancy in the effort to take over her own life, but for many disabled women, this discovery of a disability will often turn a wanted pregnancy into an unwanted pregnancy  There is not a lot of support under neoliberalism for disabled children  There’s also this idea in aborting disabled fetuses that a disabled life is not worth living c. More recent developments in ultrasound and gene research  How does this relate back to eugenics and eugenic screening?  In recent years, developments in ultrasounds and research on genetics that have increased identifications of abnormalities in the spinal cord, and particular intellectual and physical disabilities that the fetus will be born with  The fear is that fetuses with disabilities will continue to be aborted d. Assisted Human Reproduction Act (or AHRA; Canada 2004)  This Act almost encourages that disabilities continue to be aborted  The language is very much about having a healthy baby – very much informed by this idea that a disabled life is not worth living 3  It’s illegal in Canada to abort a fetus based on sex (does happen in a lot of other countries, and it tends to be female fetuses that are aborted), but it’s not illegal to abort based on fetuses having a potential disability  Reading: backlash that the lesbian had in making sure their baby was deaf  We can think of this as a contemporary form of eugenics. People are no longer being sterilized because they danced or are poor. But we’re engaged in a different type of “master race” 5. The Sterilization of Leilani Muir (film) March 21, 2012 P ART II 1. Birth Control, Abortion and the Law a. Women healers (or lay practitioners) and midwives (mostly female)  Midwife: deliver children and specialize in the healthcare of women (particularly when they are pregnant)  There is a rich history over several cultures of women helping each other with birth control and abortion  Until the mid-late 1800s, women healers in Western Europe, the U.S. and Canada provided women with birth control, abortion, and trained other women to do so as well without legal proposition  Women healers were lay people who did medical procedures along with the midwives  Midwifery wasn’t washed out until the mid-late 1800, and has made a comeback within the past 20-30 years th  Abortion and birth control wasn’t prohibited by law until the late 19 century b. British law and “quickening” (1803)  Britain passed the first anti-abortion laws  English common law deemed abortion a criminal act only afte
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