Nature is Smarter Than We Are: Midwifery and the Responsive State

68 Pages Posted: 8 Apr 2021

See all articles by Jennifer Hickey

Jennifer Hickey

Emory University School of Law - Vulnerability and Human Condition Initiative

Date Written: March 25, 2021

Abstract

The United States is considered the most dangerous place in the developed world to give birth. Mothers are paying top dollar to give birth under our uniquely medical model, yet they are dying, suffering severe injury, and experiencing lasting trauma at an alarming and ever-increasing rate. Overwhelming global evidence suggests that state investment in midwifery and normalization of birth without medical intervention is crucial to address this crisis. Arguments for state support of midwifery are typically grounded in improved support of maternal choice. Unfortunately, focus on individual choice and rights in childbirth confines the state to a punitive role in which it can only address birth injury by punishing individual women for bad choices, foreclosing comprehensive support of midwifery as a solution.

This Article instead applies Professor Martha Fineman’s vulnerability theory to argue for a responsive state that affirmatively provides a meaningful and safe birthing experience through recognition of our collective responsibility for societal reproduction. Approaching birth from this perspective imposes positive obligations on the state to address the widespread social harm caused by excessive medicalization rather than allowing the state to abdicate responsibility for birth to the private marketplace and individual women. In this manner, we can achieve the widespread adoption and promotion of midwifery that is critical to improving birth in the United States.

Keywords: birth justice, reproductive justice, vulnerability theory

Suggested Citation

Hickey, Jennifer, Nature is Smarter Than We Are: Midwifery and the Responsive State (March 25, 2021). Columbia Journal of Gender and Law, Vol. 40, No. 2, 2021, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3815866

Jennifer Hickey (Contact Author)

Emory University School of Law - Vulnerability and Human Condition Initiative ( email )

Do you have a job opening that you would like to promote on SSRN?

Paper statistics

Downloads
37
Abstract Views
417
PlumX Metrics