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The Wandering Uterus: Politics and the Reproductive Rights of Women

Cheryl L. Meyer
Copyright Date: 1997
Published by: NYU Press
Pages: 236
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  • Book Info
    The Wandering Uterus
    Book Description:

    From the FDA review of RU-486 to the recent growth of fertility clinics to the rights of lesbian parents, women's reproductive lives are aggressively regulated by law and medicine. While a great deal has been written on such issues as abortion and postpartum depression, no single volume has offered a broad discussion of the interface between the legal, medical, and political aspects of women's reproduction in a manner accessible and informative to non-specialists.The Wandering Uterus fills that gap. Taking her title from an ancient Greek belief that women's health problems were caused by a wandering uterus that needed to be confined and controlled, Meyer exposes the way in which myths and prejudice about female sexuality continue to influence the practice of law and medicine today.This book offers new insights and provides a wealth of up-to- date information on a subject that changes every day. The text is divided into three main parts: political issues of pre- conception, the politics of pregnancy, and the politics of motherhood. Throughout, Meyer argues passionately that while technology and medicine must progress, they should not be allowed to do so at women's expense.

    eISBN: 978-0-8147-6320-9
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Introduction: The Wandering Uterus
    (pp. 1-6)

    The issues surrounding women’s reproduction and reproductive rights have historically been tinged with the devaluation of women. The theory of the wandering uterus is a perfect example. The Greek physician Hippocrates is generally credited with first suggesting that hysteria was the result of a wandering uterus: the uterus, he thought, could detach itself and wander about the body, causing dysfunction by adhering to other organs. For example, the uterus might attach to the heart, causing chest pains, or to the stomach, causing gastrointestinal problems. In turn, this would cause women to become hysterical (evidently men were incapable of becoming hysterical)....

  5. 1 Politics and Reproductive Technologies I: Gamete Donation
    (pp. 7-40)

    Rosanna and Mauro della Corte were devastated when their only child, Riccardo, was killed in a traffic accident at seventeen. Rosanna said, “If you only knew what darkness there is in this house, without a young boy who filled it with his joy and smile. I desire so much to have another face to caress, to be able to hear somebody call me mother.”¹ So the della Cortes decided to adopt a child. However, they were considered too old for adoption. Then Rosanna read an article about Severino Antinori, a gynecologist in Rome, Italy, who could assist Rosanna in becoming...

  6. 2 Politics and Reproductive Technologies II: The Legacy of IVF
    (pp. 41-84)

    Unrelentingly the media report spiraling rates of infertility. Illusions of rising infertility rates represent part of the backlash against American women for choosing careers over family or careers in addition to family:¹ infertility is their penance. Perhaps now, women will learn, once and for all, that their place is in the home. Divine intervention has doled out consequences for women venturing out on careers of their own.

    These purportedly rising rates of infertility have met with almost frenetic response from prospective parents. In part this may be due to increased social and political emphasis on the family, and in part...

  7. 3 Politics and the Control of Women’s Bodies
    (pp. 85-107)

    Americans are becoming more health-conscious. Smoking is now prohibited or restricted in most public facilities. Membership in a health club is de rigueur for the monied classes. Shoppers have begun to read the labels on food products, and the FDA has begun to require manufacturers to provide more in-depth nutritional information on those labels. No- or low-fat and no- or low-cholesterol foods are in vogue. Extensive educational and motivational campaigns endorsing “wellness” have been launched all over the country. Some universities even require students to complete courses on “wellness” as part of their general education. Many behaviors that were pitched...

  8. 4 Politics and Reproductive Issues in the Workplace
    (pp. 108-130)

    The politics of reproduction and the family were showcased in the 1992 presidential election. Pivotal campaign issues focused on the reproductive rights of women and support for the family, particularly in the workplace. George Bush was criticized for paying lip service to “family values” while stifling legislation, such as the Family Leave Act, that might have assisted families in their attempt to balance work and home life.

    This disparity should not have come as a surprise to women, who have long been familiar with workplace discrimination revolving around family and reproductive issues. Many women have found themselves inappropriately terminated from...

  9. 5 Politics and Reproductive Choice
    (pp. 131-163)

    Each state or federal election, every nomination to the Supreme Court, reminds Americans of the pivotal role that women’s reproductive rights play in politics. In elections, some individuals vote solely on a candidate’s stance regarding reproductive choice, that is, regarding abortion. Similarly, the selection and confirmation of Supreme Court justices has frequently turned on the nominee’s interpretation of and opinions aboutRoe v. Wade. One appointment could disrupt the balance of the Supreme Court and affect the status ofRoe v. Wadeand the reproductive options of generations of women.

    For most antichoice individuals, the “unborn” are human beings and...

  10. 6 Reproductive Interventions
    (pp. 164-191)

    Angela was only thirteen years old when she was diagnosed with leukemia. For nearly a decade she battled the cancer, which cost her her left leg and hip. Finally, the cancer went into remission; Angela married and became pregnant. Unfortunately, the disease returned, and Angela, twenty-seven years old and six months pregnant, entered the hospital to die.

    Aware that she would probably not carry the baby to term, Angela agreed to allow physicians to perform a cesarean section after the twenty-eighth week of her pregnancy, when the fetus might be viable, even though the surgery was likely to hasten her...

  11. 7 Back to the Future?
    (pp. 192-198)

    The Constitution guarantees certain rights to all citizens of the United States, regardless of gender. Many of these rights have been discussed in this book. Yet men and women are often treated quite differently, by the law, the medical profession, and society in general, when they try to exercise these rights, and taken as a whole, the disparities seem formidable. It is clear that “rights” are meaningless unless they are upheld by the legal system, and upheld for everyone.

    All reproductive rights are inextricably linked, and losses in any one area may represent losses across the board. For example, if...

  12. Notes
    (pp. 199-220)
  13. Index
    (pp. 221-226)
  14. Back Matter
    (pp. 227-227)