Assisted Reproductive Technology & the Double-Bind: The Illusory Choice of Motherhood

54 Pages Posted: 31 Jan 2007

See all articles by Michele Goodwin

Michele Goodwin

University of California, Irvine School of Law


This article argues that assisted reproductive technology (ART) is mistakenly regarded as equitable accommodation for women and their families who wish to delay pregnancies in order to avoid discrimination. Pregnancy and motherhood discrimination, I argue, are "soft," but real discrimination that create "double binds" for women who believe they must choose between the pursuit of a career and early motherhood. For these young women, they understand or are advised by older women to delay pregnancy to increase their chances of "fair" opportunity at law firms, businesses, or university posts. This article describes this type of discrimination as "soft" because it exists without an actual act committed against a woman, the perception of discrimination is subjective, and therefore might be difficult to prove in traditional modes of adjudication. Yet, studies confirm that young women increasingly delay pregnancies, often against their preference, in order to avoid employment discrimination or the "pink collar" glass ceiling.

Existing public policy ignores this type of invidious discrimination and even accommodates it by promoting assisted reproductive technology as the solution to early career challenges. Yet reliance on ART to resolve this larger public policy issue detracts from addressing pregnancy and motherhood discrimination in the workplace and levies the burden on women to use biotechnology to resolve inequitable treatment in employment settings. In this context public policy refuses to hold law firms, corporations, and universities accountable for soft discrimination. Further, as demonstrated in this article, ART treatments pose very serious health risks to mothers and fetuses, and thus are not real options, but an illusory choice of motherhood and career advancement. This article addresses law, culture, and science of reproductive technology, focusing primarily on the maternal double bind nurtured by dynamics of unequal structural relationships in society.

Keywords: biotechnology, assisted reproduction, motherhood, discrimination, law, medicine

JEL Classification: D1, D6, I00

Suggested Citation

Goodwin, Michele, Assisted Reproductive Technology & the Double-Bind: The Illusory Choice of Motherhood. Journal of Gender, Race and Justice, Vol. 9, No. 1, pp. 1-54, Fall 2005. Available at SSRN:

Michele Goodwin (Contact Author)

University of California, Irvine School of Law ( email )

401 E. Peltason Dr.
Ste. 1000
Irvine, CA 92697-1000
United States

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