Discourse around reproductive and contraceptive technology in the United States is typically organized around ideas of autonomy, privacy, and free choice. The dichotomy of “pro-choice” and “pro-life” structures all debates on the topic, and the political framework of neoliberalism channels discussion into prepackaged frameworks of cost-benefit analysis and the primacy of free market choice. However, an examination of history and present policy developments paints a different picture. This Note argues that access to and regulation around contraception, abortion, and overall reproductive health and technology has been informed by and continues to interact with ideas of biopower and both positive and negative eugenics, and that neoliberal conceptions of free reproductive choice ignore the implications of this connection.
Part II traces the history of the eugenics movement in America, exemplified by forced and coerced sterilization of people considered mentally or physically “degenerate,” particularly those confined to institutions, and explores the rhetoric in early contraceptive-focused treatises and court decisions that reflect eugenicist views. Part III analyzes the modern trends on legal access to and regulation of reproductive and contraceptive technology and its interaction with race, socioeconomic status, and, in particular, disability (one of the more anxiety-producing categories of humanity in the neoliberal era). In Part IV, the Note goes on to argue that construction of a rational and compassionate legal framework where a woman’s right to choose is preserved (or revived) and the humanity of disabled persons is also respected is not only possible, but essential.
A truly feminist reproductive framework must be built on justice, not market choice, and must respect both the agency and autonomy of pregnant women and the humanity and individual subjectivity of disabled persons. Policy strategies towards this end will not be easy, but attention to all the intersectional and overlapping factors that affect women’s reproductive decision-making, especially with regard to disability and reproductive technology, can change the way we view and value disabled personhood in our society.
Biopower, Disability and Capitalism: Neoliberal Eugenics and the Future of ART Regulation,
26 Duke Journal of Gender Law & Policy
Available at: https://scholarship.law.duke.edu/djglp/vol26/iss2/4