Wednesday, October 13, 2010

The Politics of Birth

The other day I submitted an abstract for a paper to a Women's Studies conference at a small university not too far from here. I am a serial abstract submissionist who rarely gets around to ever writing the papers, but it's October (that school spirit is in the air). I'm no longer a student, but this time of year always makes me feel all intellectual and I get the overwhelming urge to contribute something to the academy.

After attending a Reproductive Justice conference this past spring, I've been thinking quite a bit about the politics of birth or more specifically - how childbirth rights are indeed reproductive rights, and I can get involved.

So...I have a tea-time appointment next week with a interesting (sounding) doula/midwife here in DC about the prospects of my becoming a doula myself. I'm kinda really excited about this. How earth-motherly of me.

In all seriousness, birth is the literal first stage of a child development and the first interaction it will have with it's parents and the beginning of that parent/child relationship. With this in mind, how incredibly important is it to make sure this experience is safe and healthy and educational and empowering for the families involved? But, as it's probably easy to imagine, women at the margins of society (poor women, girl mothers, queer mothers, disabled mothers, incarcerated mothers, etc...) must endure birth experiences that are much less than ideal and that rife with misinformation, negligence, abuse of power, patronization, and other injustices that start these new families out on the wrong foot. Because of who they are and what they don't have, many women enter and exit the birth experience uninformed and unsupported - something that no woman should have to do. Birth is at once physically and emotionally traumatic and, life changing, and wonderful, and on and on...

While most of this discourse removed the birth process from the topic of motherhood and parenting and family relationships, I would argue that it's essential to the discussion. Therefore, in my paper I'm going to construct and argument for (1) not privileging one expression of reproductive rights over another (abortion trumping childbirth) and (2) making sure childbirth is included at the heart of the discourse. I've printed out (and have yet to read) a bunch of interesting-looking article on this subject and I'm excited to embark on this research...

Civilian scholar - or trying to be.

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