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Cultural Conceptions: On Reproductive Technologies and the Remaking of Life

Valerie Hartouni
Copyright Date: 1997
Edition: NED - New edition
Pages: 192
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.5749/j.ctttth3v
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  • Book Info
    Cultural Conceptions
    Book Description:

    A thoughtful examination considering the cultural effects of new reproductive technologies as reflected in video images, popular journalism, scientific debates, legal briefs, and policy decisions.

    eISBN: 978-0-8166-8656-8
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 1-10)

    In 1993, the Supreme Court handed down a ruling inBray v. Alexandria Women’s Health Clinicthe logic of which, although predictable in many respects, might nevertheless give even the most seasoned skeptic reason to pause and consider—indeed, marvel in disbelief at—how dramatically refigured the landscape that is abortion has become over the course of the past two decades. In this case, the Court was asked to determine whether the “rescue” demonstrations engaged in by antiabortion activists at abortion clinics for the purpose of disrupting clinic operations deliberately deprive women seeking abortion (and related medical and counseling services)...

  5. 1 Impaired Sight or Partial Vision? Tracking Reproductive Bodies
    (pp. 11-25)

    I want to begin by framing this chapter and collection with a story that Oliver Sacks tells in an article that appeared in theNew Yorkerseveral years ago. The story is about a man Sacks refers to as Virgil. Virtually blind for forty-five of his fifty years as a result of a series of acute childhood illnesses, Virgil was prompted by his fiancée to visit an ophthalmologist for treatment. He had thick cataracts, writes Sacks, “and was also said to have retinitis pigmentosa, a hereditary condition that slowly but implacably eats away at the retinas.”¹ Still, Virgil “could ....

  6. 2 Containing Women: Reproductive Discourse(s) in the 1980s
    (pp. 26-50)

    “Brain-Dead Mother Has Her Baby”—so read the headline of a major West Coast newspaper in July 1986, when doctors removed an apparently healthy, thirty-two-week-old fetus from the body of Marie Odette Henderson.¹ Henderson had died fifty-three days earlier from a brain tumor; by court order, her body was kept functioning until the respiratory system of the fetus she carried had sufficiently matured to enable “independent” life. Once matured, the fetus was removed by cesarean section and delivered into the arms of Henderson’s fiancé. Shortly thereafter, doctors disconnected the woman from all life support,whercupon she was pronounced dead,again.

    Henderson is...

  7. 3 Fetal Exposures: Abortion Politics and the Optics of Allusion
    (pp. 51-67)

    Over the course of the past decade, the grammar and culture of abortion have been profoundly refigured. Although a variety of factors have converged to produce this refiguration, among the most pivotal has been the increased public presence of the fetus. The circulation of fetal images by antiabortion forces, the routine use of ultrasound in monitoring pregnancy and labor, and the development of widely publicized and culturally valorized medical techniques in the area of fetal therapy and repair have together worked to shift the terms in which abortion is now framed, understood, experienced, and spoken, even by those who champion...

  8. 4 Reproducing Public Meanings: In the Matter of Baby M
    (pp. 68-84)

    By the time Judge Harvey Sorkow handed down his ruling upholding the surrogate agreement in the so-called Baby M case, much of the drama that had suffused the seven-week trial had been spent. For weeks, major newspapers had featured pictures of Baby Stern/Whitehead being passed from birth mother to biological father with state troopers at hand to ensure an orderly transfer. Often accompanying these pictures were character sketches and lengthy life histories of the principal players in the dispute. The viewing public had been invited “to contemplate with anguish the constant pressures and conflicts [the baby would] confront throughout her...

  9. 5 Breached Birth: Anna Johnson and the Reproduction of Raced Bodies
    (pp. 85-98)

    On September 19, 1990, Anna Johnson, a black single parent of one, gave birth to a six-pound, ten-ounce, white baby boy in Santa Ana, California. Two days later, she surrendered custody of the boy to his genetic parents, Mark and Crispina Calvert, in order to avoid his temporary placement in a foster home while Orange County Superior Court Judge Richard N. Parslow Jr. reviewed Johnson’s suit for parental rights and custody. The Calverts had contracted with Johnson the previous year to bring to term their in vitro fertilized embryo. In exchange for ten thousand dollars, Johnson agreed to be surgically...

  10. 6 “On Breeding Good Stock”: Reflections on Herrnstein and Murray’s Bell Curve
    (pp. 99-109)

    In September 1995, theLos Angeles Timescarried a story whose headline read “San Diego Zoo Comes to the Aid of Embattled Iguana.”¹ To a point, the story is a relatively familiar one. Inhabiting the shoreline of the U.S. naval base at Guantánamo Bay are giant rock iguanas. Of the many thousands of varieties of lizards that populate the world, the giant rock iguana has the distinction of now being among the most endangered and this, apparently, is where the San Diego Zoo comes in. The zoo’s Center for the Reproduction of Endangered Species is conducting a multiyear, multimillion-dollar project...

  11. 7 Replicating the Singular Self: Some Thoughts on Cloning and Cultural Identity
    (pp. 110-132)

    In October 1993, in vitro specialists Jerry Hall and Robert Stillman of George Washington University presented a paper at the annual meeting of the American Fertility Society in Montreal. In this paper, Hall and Stillman provided an account of an experiment they had conducted in which they “cloned” seventeen human embryos, or rather “multiplied them,” asTimeput it, “like the Bible’s loaves and fishes into 48.”¹ By stripping seventeen two- and three-cell embryos of their outer protective coating, separating these cells, and recoating each with an artificial shell, Hall and Stillman produced forty-eight little genetic units, all of which...

  12. Notes
    (pp. 133-156)
  13. Bibliography
    (pp. 157-170)
  14. Index
    (pp. 171-176)
  15. Back Matter
    (pp. 177-177)