Women and Reproduction

  • Jalna Hanmer


This chapter is about biological reproduction; how it has and is being theorised and why it is central to some strands of feminist theory and to Women’s Studies. The initial questions and issues of concern to women since the 1960s are discussed first. Scientific developments and medical technologies currently restructuring biological reproduction are described next, followed by a description of how this is impacting on rights, choice and self-determination for women. The chapter concludes with crucial issues for an agenda to secure a better future for women in the new millennium.


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Further reading

  1. Jocelynne A. Scutt (ed.), The Baby Machine: Reproductive Technology and the Commercialisation of Motherhood (London, Greenprint, 1990). A collection of articles on IVF, surrogacy, biotechnology, genetic manipulations, interventions in conception, embryo research, eugenics, infertility, pregnancy, childbirth, motherhood, fathers’ rights, women’s reproductive choice and rights, law and commerce, and the relation between science, technology and society. This volume offers a view from women, both as objects of these interventions and as critical protagonists. This largely Australian collection exposes the international character of medical, scientific and commercial developments in reproduction.Google Scholar
  2. Robyn Rowland, Living Laboratories: Women and Reproductive Technologies (Bloomington, Indiana University Press, 1992). The question of who is in control of motherhood underpins the issues explored in this volume. Reproductive interventions are explained simply using the experiences of women undergoing IVF and other procedures. The commercial involvements are discussed. How the foetus became a person in medicine and law and the implications for women’s personhood is another theme. Women explain how they are depersonalised by surrogacy. The values of medical science, the conceptual presentations of the technologies, infertility and desire, set the context for a reconsideration of rights, responsibilities and resistance.Google Scholar
  3. Michelle Stanworth (ed.), Reproductive Technologies: Gender, Motherhood and Medicine (Cambridge, Polity, 1987). This largely British collection proceeds from the view that technologies draw their meaning from the cultural and political climate in which they are embedded. The question is, can the cultural and political conditions be created so that reproductive technologies can be employed by women to shape the experience of reproduction according to their own definitions? The authors explore the relation of women to science and medicine; infertility and infertility services in the NHS; the restructuring of motherhood and paternal authority; the social and legal redefinition of the foetus; eugenics; surrogacy; and the various forms taken by technology in human reproduction.Google Scholar
  4. Janice Raymond, Women as Wombs: Reproductive Technologies and the Battle over Women’s Freedom (San Francisco, Harper, 1993). Are reproductive technologies and genetic interventions issues of reproductive ‘choice’ or are they a threat to women’s basic human rights? This book critiques reproductive liberalism and describes ways reproductive technologies violate the integrity of women’s bodies and perpetuate trafficking in women, children and foetuses, and prostitution. Connections are made between (hetero)sexuality and reproduction in order to bring together sexual and reproductive politics. The new reproductive technologies are presented as a form of medical sexualised violence against women, thus extending the ethical and social debate.Google Scholar

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© Jalna Hanmer 1997

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  • Jalna Hanmer

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