Virtual Mothers and the Meaning of Parenthood

109 Pages Posted: 21 Nov 2010 Last revised: 14 Jun 2014

See all articles by Annette Ruth Appell

Annette Ruth Appell

Washington University in St. Louis - School of Law

Date Written: September 1, 2000


Professor Appell supports the use of the traditional parental rights doctrine, which accords biological parents, particularly poor mothers and mothers of color, parental status alienable only voluntarily or upon proof of unfitness. She defends the doctrine against the criticisms that it is regressive and does not protect the interests of children or de facto parents. She contends that the attacks on traditional parental rights doctrine are misguided because they work to the disadvantage of families who do not easily fit the dominant norm, i.e., minority, single-mother, lower income, or politically and legally under-represented families. After examining the constitutional underpinnings and application of the parental rights doctrine as well as proposals to change it, she concludes that the doctrine provides more concrete standards than any alternative and serves to protect those families most vulnerable to intervention or dissolution.

Keywords: Feminist Jurisprudence, Mothers, Families, Children, Race

Suggested Citation

Appell, Annette Ruth, Virtual Mothers and the Meaning of Parenthood (September 1, 2000). University of Michigan Journal of Law Reform, Vol. 34, No. 2, p. 683, 2000; Washington University in St. Louis Legal Studies Research Paper No. 10-11-08. Available at SSRN:

Annette Ruth Appell (Contact Author)

Washington University in St. Louis - School of Law ( email )

Campus Box 1120
1 Brookings Drive
St. Louis, MO 63130
United States
314-935-7912 (Phone)

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