Some say the fetus is the “tiniest citizen.” If so, then the bodies of women themselves have become political arenas—or, recent cases suggest, battlefields. A cocaine-addicted mother is convicted of drug trafficking through the umbilical cord. Women employees at a battery plant must prove infertility to keep their jobs. A terminally ill woman is forced to undergo a cesarean section. No longer concerned with conception or motherhood, the new politics of fetal rights focuses on fertility and pregnancy itself, on a woman’s relationship with the fetus. How exactly, Cynthia Daniels asks, does this affect a woman’s rights? Are they different from a man’s? And how has the state helped determine the difference? The answers, rigorously pursued throughout this book, give us a clear look into the state’s paradoxical role in gender politics—as both a challenger of injustice and an agent of social control.
In benchmark legal cases concerned with forced medical treatment, fetal protectionism in the workplace, and drug and alcohol use and abuse, Daniels shows us state power at work in the struggle between fetal rights and women’s rights. These cases raise critical questions about the impact of gender on women’s standing as citizens, and about the relationship between state power and gender inequality. Fully appreciating the difficulties of each case, the author probes the subtleties of various positions and their implications for a deeper understanding of how a woman’s reproductive capability affects her relationship to state power. In her analysis, the need to defend women’s right to self-sovereignty becomes clear, but so does the need to define further the very concepts of self-sovereignty and privacy.
The intensity of the debate over fetal rights suggests the depth of the current gender crisis and the force of the feelings of social dislocation generated by reproductive politics. Breaking through the public mythology that clouds these debates, At Women’s Expense makes a hopeful beginning toward liberating woman’s body within the body politic.
Daniels vividly depicts the darker side of intensified political attention to motherhood and childbirth… [She] deftly exposes flaws in the scientific research supporting fetal-protection policies and points to troubling inconsistencies in the policies themselves.
Three paradigmatic recent court cases pitting the rights of fetuses against those of women focus the book’s central chapters… Daniels’ careful, chilling analyses of these cases expose the severe threats to women’s most basic constitutional rights posed by policies that grant fetuses interests separate from those of the women whose bodies sustain them.
At Women’s Expense brings structure and clarity to a complex and controversial subject of public policy… The strength of [this book], which should make it a classic in the field, is Daniels's use of very dramatic case studies to draw the reader into a complicated theoretical discussion of what is at stake for women's equality and citizenship.
By virtue of its subject matter and analysis, I think it is fair to say that Daniels’s book is one many of us have been waiting for and hoping would be published to meet our intellectual interests and pedagogical needs. Her detailed, thought-provoking analysis and synthesis will be important for serious, sober reevaluation by social theorists and critics of all stripes (not only feminists) concerned with public policy in the next century.
Daniels’s detailed discussion of cases involving fetal protection versus maternal rights will engage law, and public policy… The book is approachable, written in ordinary English [without] obfuscation and much of the folderol to which we are often treated these days… Daniels’s text may prove to be a standard reference work for scholars in years to come.
- 191 pages
- 6-1/8 x 9-1/4 inches
- Harvard University Press
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