Abstract

http://ssrn.com/abstract=1360453
 


 



Social Factoring the Numbers with Assisted Reproduction


Bridget J. Crawford


Pace University School of Law

Lolita Buckner Inniss


Cleveland-Marshall College of Law, Cleveland State University

March 18, 2010

Texas Journal of Women and the Law, Vol. 19, No. 1, p. 1, 2009

Abstract:     
In late winter 2009, the airwaves came alive with stories about Nadya Suleman, the California mother who gave birth to octuplets conceived via assisted reproductive technology. Nadya Suleman and her octuplets are the vehicles through which Americans express their anxiety about race, class and gender. Expressions of concern for the health of children, the mother’s well-being, the future of reproductive medicine or the financial drain on taxpayers barely conceal deep impulses towards racism, sexism and classism. It is true that the public has had a longstanding fascination with multiple births and with large families. This is evidenced by a long history of media attention and film depictions of such families, both fictitious and real. However, there is a point at which fascination turns to disdain, and that occurs all too often when the time that parents of the children are revealed to be Other - outside of racial and class norms. This essay describes eight socio-legal anxieties that coalesce in response to Suleman's story: (1) race and racial hierarchies; (2) the contingency of white privilege; (3) the nature of white motherhood; (4) the role of doctors as agents of the state; (5) reproductive technology and class; (6) bodily perfection and class markers; (7) the bounds of the traditional family; and (8) geographical differences.

The bounds of tolerance strain and break when individual autonomy collides with majoritarian notions of civic and moral virtue. Derision of Suleman reveals the limitations of tolerance for women who deviate from prescribed norms, including norms of “choice.” Suleman’s story is not just about multiple births, then, but about society’s multiple anxieties when a woman breaches the bounds of racial, class and gender expectations.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 23

Keywords: reproductive technology, IVF, octomom, octuplets, Nadya Suleman, race, class, gender, motherhood, whiteness, contingent whiteness, Othering, choice, feminist, feminism, reproductive technology, racial hierarchy, black families, doctors, autonomy

JEL Classification: K1, K10, K19, K23, K30, K32, K4

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Date posted: March 19, 2009 ; Last revised: March 15, 2011

Suggested Citation

Crawford, Bridget J. and Buckner Inniss, Lolita, Social Factoring the Numbers with Assisted Reproduction (March 18, 2010). Texas Journal of Women and the Law, Vol. 19, No. 1, p. 1, 2009. Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=1360453

Contact Information

Bridget J. Crawford (Contact Author)
Pace University School of Law ( email )
78 North Broadway
White Plains, NY 10603
United States
Lolita Buckner Inniss
Cleveland-Marshall College of Law, Cleveland State University ( email )
2121 Euclid Avenue, LB 138
Cleveland, OH 44115-2214
United States

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