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DR. GRETA GAARD, DEPT. OF ENGLISH, UWRF PRESENTATION FOR THE UNIVERSITY OF WISCONSIN 32 ND ANNUAL WOMENS STUDIES CONFERENCE APRIL 4-5, 2008 AT UW-GREEN.

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Presentation on theme: "DR. GRETA GAARD, DEPT. OF ENGLISH, UWRF PRESENTATION FOR THE UNIVERSITY OF WISCONSIN 32 ND ANNUAL WOMENS STUDIES CONFERENCE APRIL 4-5, 2008 AT UW-GREEN."— Presentation transcript:

1 DR. GRETA GAARD, DEPT. OF ENGLISH, UWRF PRESENTATION FOR THE UNIVERSITY OF WISCONSIN 32 ND ANNUAL WOMENS STUDIES CONFERENCE APRIL 4-5, 2008 AT UW-GREEN BAY WOMEN AND ENVIRONMENT: LITERARY, SCIENTIFIC, AND CULTURAL PERSPECTIVES Reproductive Technology, or Reproductive Justice? An Ecofeminist, Environmental Justice Perspective on the Rhetoric of Choice

2 Womens Reproductive Control: A History Prefeminist history 20 th c. options of private contraception and abortion From private to public contraception and abortion: The Pill (1960) Roe v. Wade (1973) Anti-feminist backlash (1980s-present) Anti-choice movement -> Pro-Life Pro-Choice movement & privacy framework Choice coopted by conservative Pro-Life => Choice to keep an unplanned pregnancy => Choice to use reproductive technologies

3 "Juno" (2007) Little Girl Lost CityPages (3/12/2008) Little Girl Lost CityPages (3/12/2008) 16-yr-olds choice to go full-term and give up the child Abortion clinic as depressing No examination of Mifepristone (RU-486) No analysis of separation effects on birth mothers Open adoption from 20-something mother of 3 to infertile couple backfires through failure to file legal papers severing birth mothers right to child After baby spends two months with 1 st -chosen adoptive parents, birth mother chooses to give baby to a different couple Does a birth mother stop thinking of her child after giving it up for adoption? What did the baby want? Popular culture examples of antifeminist choice

4 Miracles for Sale Mpls. Star/Tribune (10/21/2007) Miracles for Sale Mpls. Star/Tribune (10/21/2007) The Oprah Winfrey Show (10/9/2007) Choice of infertile couples to pay $15,000 to egg donor agencies Choice of egg donors who earn $6,000-$20,000 No mention of dangers of egg donation for donor, or psychological implications for child produced thereby Wombs for Rent Choice of 1 st world white couple to use IVF Choice of white egg donor Choice of surrogates in India, only $6,000 Race & class inequities, women as womb slaves Why are these choices antifeminist? Two more popular culture examples

5 Feminist Perspectives on the New Reproductive Technologies Who benefits? Who pays? The egg donors The infertile couple The surrogates The children/products The medical-industrial complex Reinforcing race and class privilege Privatizing & medicalizing reproductive health problemsignoring root causes that would require radical changes

6 The process of NRTs Egg donors undergo at least these three steps: Lupron – a drug used to shut down a womans ovaries before multiple egg extraction Pergonal – one of several drugs used to (offshoots include Humegon, Fertinex, Repronex, Gonal-F, and Follistim) Egg extraction from the ovaries through laparascope Fertilisation & Implantation– IVF (in a laboratory, embryos grow, some are selected for implantation in the uterus) Gamete Intrafallopian Transfer (mixed & transferred to fallopian tubes) Zygote Intrafallopian Transfer (fertilised & transferred)

7 Health Concerns in Shutting down Ovaries (Lupron) rashes, vasodilation, burning sensations, tingling, itching, headaches/migraines, dizziness, hives, hair loss, severe joint pain, difficulty breathing, chest pain, nausea, depression, emotional instability, loss of libido, dimness of vision, fainting, weakness, amnesia, hypertension, rapid heart rate, muscular pain, bone pain, insomnia, edema, chronic enlargement of the thyroid, liver function abnormality, anxiety, vertigo Norsigian 2005

8 Health Concerns in Hyperstimulating the Ovaries Ovarian Hyperstimulation Syndrome (OHSS) Development of cysts, enlargement of the ovaries, massive fluid buildup in the body Potentially fatal Increased risk of clotting disorders, kidney damage, ovarian twisting Associated with life-threatening pulmonary conditions in FDA trials: thromboembolic events, pulmonary embolism, pulmonary infarction, strokes, arterial occlusion with loss of a limb, & death (Norsigian 1995)

9 Choice (continued) Privatizes the decisions surrounding childbearing Has led to conflicts between individual and community Has led to (real or perceived) conflicts between the woman and the embryo or fetus Provides no rhetorical protection against creating designer babies (eugenics) Can be used to promote regressive gender roles & framed as an opposition to life Undercuts demands for public funding of abortion Appeals to those who have options, but is meaningless to those who dont, hence politically divisive Choice + failure to oppose population control reinforces the disparity btw. WMW women & low income women & WOC worldwide Weak ethical framework, esp.when counterposed w/life Rhetorics of Choice vs. Reproductive Justice

10 Reproductive Justice Reproductive maternal and infant health & health equity across race, class, sexuality, & nation Reproductive rights (legal protections, privacy, state regulation) Challenges potential eugenic outcomes of NRTs Provides a conceptual framework for challenging the exploitation of womens bodies and reproductive capacities Contextual socioeconomic environment, but not the ecological environment

11 Ecofeminism, Environmental Justice, and Environmental Health Breast Cancer and Environmental Health: ecofeminism in the 1990s Toxic waste, race & class: environmental justice in 1990s Endocrine-disruptors, phthalates, PCBs, organochlorines, pesticides -> animal/human health Our Stolen Future (1996) Living Downstream (1998), Having Faith (2003) Challenged Conceptions: Environmental Chemicals and Fertility (2005) = Decreased fertility among economic elites, and environmental degradation esp. among economically disadvantaged

12 Scope of Infertility Problem High priority compounds include (but are not limited to): 12% of the reproductive age population in the U. S., or 7.3 million couples, reports difficulty conceiving and/or carrying a pregnancy to term CDC data shows impaired fecundity over the last two decades increased in all reproductive age groups, but most sharply in younger women (under age 25) In 2002, an estimated $2.9 billion was spent on infertility treatments in the US. Now, some 46,000 (or one in 100) babies born to Americans each year are conceived as a result of NRTs. one fifth or more of treated couples do not end up with a baby after a course of ART cycles current-use pesticides phthalates bisphenol A brominated flame retardants (PBDEs) perfluorinated compounds(PFCs) octyl/nonylphenols Findings from Environmental Health (Stanford/Vallombrosa Study 2005)

13 2 nd & 3 rd Wave Feminisms & Natural Mothering Second-wave feminism Mothering magazine; Suzanne Arms, Immaculate Deception: Myth, Magic & Birth (1975; Repr. 1994); Ehrenreich & English, For Her Own Good (1978); Rich, Of Woman Born (1976); Ruddick, Maternal Thinking (1989) Janice Raymond, Andrea Dworkin, Catherine Mackinnon Third-wave feminism, natural mothering, & maternal activisms Books & Magazines: Breeder (2001), HipMama (1993) Internet: Brain, Child; Literary Mama; Rock the Cradle blog Radio: Mombo Activisms: MomsRising, MothersMovement Attachment Parenting (Sears 1999) Baby wearing, cosleeping, extended breastfeeding

14 Feminism & Reproductive Justice Feminism & Environmental Justice Safe & affordable contraception, including abortion Prenatal, infant, & maternal health care Economic support for family caregiving Rethinking gender, sexuality & culture Womens primary value not confined to motherhood Challenging compulsory heterosexuality Interrogating masculinity Preceding, plus: Ban on endocrine-disrupting chemicals Precautionary Principle for Env. Chemicals & NRTs More stringent regulations on NRTs to protect the physical & mental health of egg donors, birth mothers, gestational mothers, and children alike Workplace health regulations to include reproductive health Resisting eugenics in national and intl. medical, pharmaceutical, & corporate interventions into reproductive rights Shifting Rhetorics: From Choice to Reproductive and Environmental Justice

15 Social Justice Movements Environmental Perspectives Feminism Civil Rights Feminism & Science 2 nd Wave Env. Sciences Reproductive & Environmental Health Env. Justice Mvmt. Consumption, Population, & Sustainability Ecological, Feminist, & Reproductive Justice 3 rd Wave Ecofeminism Critiques of NRTs & the Rhetoric of Choice Maternal Activisms An Intersectional Analysis of NRTs & Ecological, Feminist, & Reproductive Justice

16 Lingering questions for an ecological, feminist, and environmental justice perspective on reproductive justice The Mothers. Considering the attachment and affection of birth mothers, gestational mothers, and adoptive mothers for their children, how can we develop an ecological, feminist perspective on the relationship between a mother and her child? The Children. What do we know for certain about the physical and mental health effects of the NRT practices of egg donation, IVF, and surrogacy on the children these technologies produce? In a society with attachment disorders on the rise, what impact will this medicalized commodification of reproduction have on the children? The Planet. At a time when world population is soaring, the NRTs are increasing the elite population in nations responsible for overconsumption. Can elites be persuaded to build family in more ecologically sustainable ways?

17 2 nd & 3 rd Wave Feminist Sources Arms, Suzanne. Immaculate Deception: Myth, Magic, & Birth. (1975; 1994). Berkeley: Celestial Arts, Ehrenreich, Barbara, and Deirdre English. For Her Own Good: 150 Years of the Experts Advice to Women. New York: Doubleday, Our Bodies, Ourselves. Accessed 3/20/2008.http://www.ourbodiesourselves.org/book Rich, Adrienne. Of Woman Born: Motherhood as Experience and Institution. New York: W.W.Norton & Co., Ruddick, Sara. Maternal Thinking: Toward a Politics of Peace. New York: Ballantine Books, Gore, Ariel, and Bee Lavender, eds. Breeder: Real-Life Stories from the New Generation of Mothers. Seattle: Seal Press, McConnell, Carolyn. Junos Feminism? Rock the Cradle, 1/25/ Accessed 3/21/2008.

18 Ecofeminism & Environmental Justice Brady, Judy, ed. 1 in 3: Women with Cancer Confront an Epidemic. Pittsburgh: Cleis Press, Clorfene-Casten, Liane. Breast Cancer: Poisons, Profits and Prevention. Monroe, ME: Common Courage Press, Colburn, Theo, Dianne Dumanoski, and John Peterson Myers. Our Stolen Future: Are We Threatening Our Fertility, Intelligence, and Survival?A Scientific Detective Story. New York: Penguin/Plume, Steingraber, Sandra. Living Downstream: A Scientists Personal Investigation of Cancer and the Environment (1998). Steingraber, Sandra. Having Faith: An Ecologists Journey to Motherhood (2003).


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