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Policing Pregnant Bodies

From Ancient Greece to Post-Roe America

Kathleen M. Crowther

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Explores the historical roots of controversies over abortion, fetal personhood, miscarriage, and maternal mortality.

On June 24, 2022, the US Supreme Court overturned the Roe v. Wade decision, asserting that the Constitution did not confer the right to abortion. This ruling, in the Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health case, was the culmination of a half-century of pro-life activism promoting the idea that fetuses are people and therefore entitled to the rights and protections that the Constitution guarantees. But it was also the product of a much longer history of archaic ideas about the...

Explores the historical roots of controversies over abortion, fetal personhood, miscarriage, and maternal mortality.

On June 24, 2022, the US Supreme Court overturned the Roe v. Wade decision, asserting that the Constitution did not confer the right to abortion. This ruling, in the Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health case, was the culmination of a half-century of pro-life activism promoting the idea that fetuses are people and therefore entitled to the rights and protections that the Constitution guarantees. But it was also the product of a much longer history of archaic ideas about the relationship between pregnant people and the fetuses they carry.

In Policing Pregnant Bodies: From Ancient Greece to Post-Roe America, historian Kathleen M. Crowther discusses the deeply rooted medical and philosophical ideas that continue to reverberate in the politics of women's health and reproductive autonomy. From the idea that a detectable heartbeat is a sign of moral personhood to why infant and maternal mortality rates in the United States have risen as abortion restrictions have gained strength, this is a historically informed discussion of the politics of women's reproductive rights.

Crowther explains why pro-life concern for fetuses has led not just to laws restricting or banning abortion but also to delaying or denying treatment to women for miscarriages as well as police investigations of miscarriages. She details the failure to implement policies that would actually improve the quality of infant life, such as guaranteed access to medical care, healthy food, safe housing, and paid maternity leave. We must understand the historical roots of these archaic ideas in order to critically engage with the current legal and political debates involving fetal life.

Reviews

Reviews

Timely and important.This book is a wake-up call for those who care about and for women and children.

Historian Kathleen Crowther sees a connection between Ancient Greek philosophers studying embryos and modern day abortion restrictions....In her new book, Policing Pregnant Bodies...Crowther examines ancient metaphors that are still being used, describes the process through which early physicians came to understand fetal development, and explores the pernicious notion that a pregnant woman is the primary threat to the health of her fetus.

[Crowther] effectively shows how the same misogynistic ideas crop up repeatedly throughout history, pitting pregnant people against fetuses in a dangerous zero-sum game....In Policing Pregnant Bodies, Crowther combines three decades of experience as a medical historian with a rare ability to communicate clearly and engagingly with a general audience.

Crowther, a very knowledgeable historian of reproduction, effectively draws together ancient and modern religious and philosophical thought about the importance of the developing fetus and the minimal role (as told from the mostly male perspective) of the pregnant female body.This book is well researched and well referenced.

This book is a masterpiece. Though the medical and legal surveillance of pregnant women's bodies is relatively recent, Crowther demonstrates how wombs have historically been considered dangerous places and how the policing of pregnant bodies today is an insidious extension of that train of thought. The explicit links that she draws between the present and the past are the brilliant foundation of this perceptive historical analysis.

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About

Book Details

Publication Date
Status
Available
Trim Size
6
x
9
Pages
288
ISBN
9781421447636
Illustration Description
19 bw halftones
Table of Contents

Introduction
Chapter 1. The Tell-Tale Heart
Chapter 2. The Fetus in the Bottle
Chapter 3. The Dangerous Womb
Chapter 4. The Secrets of Women
Chapter 5. Abortion and the Fetus
Conclusion
Acknowledgments
Furthe

Introduction
Chapter 1. The Tell-Tale Heart
Chapter 2. The Fetus in the Bottle
Chapter 3. The Dangerous Womb
Chapter 4. The Secrets of Women
Chapter 5. Abortion and the Fetus
Conclusion
Acknowledgments
Further Reading
Notes
Bibliography
Index

Author Bio
Kathleen M. Crowther
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Kathleen M. Crowther

Kathleen M. Crowther (NORMAN, OK) is an associate professor in the Department of the History of Science, Technology, and Medicine at the University of Oklahoma. She is the author of Adam and Eve in the Protestant Reformation.