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Coming to LifePhilosophies of Pregnancy, Childbirth and Mothering$
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Sarah LaChance Adams and Caroline R. Lundquist

Print publication date: 2012

Print ISBN-13: 9780823244607

Published to Fordham Scholarship Online: May 2013

DOI: 10.5422/fordham/9780823244607.001.0001

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The Political “Nature” of Pregnancy and Childbirth

The Political “Nature” of Pregnancy and Childbirth

(p.193) 9 The Political “Nature” of Pregnancy and Childbirth
Coming to Life

Candace Johnson

Fordham University Press

In this chapter, I examine the theoretical debates concerning “medicalization” in relation to the empirical trend toward increased demand for “natural” options for childbirth. Many feminist theorists have argued that medical intervention in pregnancy and childbirth is both unwarranted and disempowering and devalues women's own abilities and experiences. Further, it is argued that medicalization (of seemingly natural events) is particularly damaging for women and other marginalized people. In this paper, I explore the claims (of both providers and consumers) concerning medical care for pregnancy and childbirth among privileged populations and ask why rejection of medical care for pregnancy and childbirth is not proportional to disadvantage. It appears to be the case that criticism of medical intervention in pregnancy and childbirth is strongest among privileged women and is expressed consistently as preference for “natural,” “traditional” or “normal” approaches and practices. Reverence for the natural, I argue, is a political claim that asserts social position, identity, and resistance. I consider this political claim to be embodied and demonstrated in the occurrence of a physical and psychic duality, a “split subjectivity,” that is exacerbated by the sharpness of the public-private divide in women's lives.

Keywords:   medicalization, childbirth, nature, reproduction, inequality, identity, public-private distinction

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