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Birthing Choices a Feminist Issue?


Courtroom Mama on Feministing wants to know what you think about choices in birth, with the spectrum given ranging from birth with no intervention to scheduled elective c-section for birth.


I am curious to hear what other people have to say, because I think that a lot of feminists view elective caesareans and unassisted birth as value-free points on a continuum of equally-valid birth choices. I can’t say that I really agree, as the astronomical rate of medical interventions and women’s accounts of feeling “rushed” or “pressured” (cue millionth endorsement of The Business of Being Born and Pushed , etc., etc.) lead me to believe that a number of these interventions —especially caesareans— are not the product of fully informed medical consent. Of course, I’ll add the disclaimer of “if a woman truly understands the risks of a caesarean and decides that it is what’s best for her and her family, then more power to her,” but I can’t help but think that flippant stuff like that evinces a disregard for 1) the real dangers of a major abdominal surgery; and 2) the value of the pregnant woman’s body per se (i.e. not as vessel/incubator/time-bomb etc.). Just cut on the dotted line and remove fetus! Not recommended beyond three uses.



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Reader Comments (2)

Actually, what I really wanted to know was what people thought about the t-shirt pattern -- from the lack of response, it seems that the feminists at Feministing, who are in large part young non-mothers, aren't really offended by it. You get a very different response from ICAN, of course, which is a little bit paradoxical because a lot of them explicitly do not identify as feminists (which, as a side note, is a little perplexing to me, but hey, it's about choice in its many forms, right?)

My mind is already made up on the issue of caesareans. I know that the "right" answer to the question is "her body, her choice, she can wear the effing tee shirt," but I also think that the tee (and the caesarean rates!) are evidence that the "choice" isn't really being made in the tabula rasa wonderland vacuum a lot of people feel it is (or that it might be for the responder who has chosen a third elective caesarean -- lucky for her she has that choice, and has the means to deal with the recovery and a baby at once, that's great), which really distorts how free the choice is. See also: abortion rights of poor women...

I'm more concerned by the objectification and victim-blaming (cum catering to the "Too Posh to Push" crowd which, I find, is largely apocryphal) that the tee shirt represents that in most other contexts would have the people there hopping mad. So maybe the answer to your question is that yes, it is a feminist issue, but not one that has been fully legitimized yet. That's where you get people like me.

Thanks for the shoutout. Sometimes I think that "Birth Blogging" is shouting into a vacuum... someday...

September 19, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterCourtroom Mama

I agree that the whole "her choice" speech sounds pretty canned. I believe that the extreme plastic surgery crowd that is terrified of labor damaging their perfect body would not think twice about major abdominal surgery. This allegedly represents a tiny, tiny portion of the elective c-sections performed. I feel sad for the growing population of women that are terrified to give birth because the wisdom being passed down from the previous generations of women in this country is dismal. I hope that birth blogging (into the vacuum!) might catch someone's eye and give them hope.

The large portion of c-sections labeled as elective that were actually "strongly recommended" by doctors based on their own beliefs that a) womens' bodies can't handle labor well (the bias of modern obstetrics) or b) that every woman will sue them if a perfect baby is not placed in their hands after delivery should make everyone take a critical look at birth.

September 20, 2008 | Registered CommenterJill
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