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Unpublished Paper
Woman Scorned?: Resurrecting Infertile Women's Decision-Making Autonomy
ExpressO (2011)
  • Jody L Madeira
Legal scholarship portrays women as reproductive decision-makers in odd and conflicting ways. The disparity between depictions of infertile women and women considering abortion is particularly striking. A woman seeking infertility treatment, even one who faces no legal obstacles, is often portrayed as so emotionally distraught and desperate that her ability to give informed consent is potentially compromised. Yet, the legal academy has roundly rejected similar characterizations of pregnant women considering abortion, depicting them as confident and competent decision-makers. This Article argues that, compared to portrayals of women seeking abortions, legal scholars’ characterizations of infertile women inexplicably deny women’s ability to critically assess the health risks and life benefits of fertility treatments. These constructions perpetuate emotional paternalism; undermine the dignity, autonomy, and capacity of infertile women; and justify restrictions on decision-making in the Assisted Reproductive Technology (ART) context. Infertility may well produce emotional distress; however, the construction of infertile women as governed by desperation unnecessarily impugns their capacity for autonomous decision-making. Overemphasizing infertile women’s desperation to conceive diminishes the scholarly inquiry into the in vitro fertilization (IVF) experience, denying such women their reproductive autonomy. Such inaccurate and demeaning constructions of infertile women ignore available clinical research and have serious ideological and practical consequences. It is therefore crucial to unmask and reframe such undignified and inaccurate stereotypes to prevent them from being incorporated into jurisprudence or legislation.
  • infertility,
  • abortion,
  • emotion,
  • competency,
  • decision-making
Publication Date
February 14, 2011
Citation Information
Jody L Madeira. "Woman Scorned?: Resurrecting Infertile Women's Decision-Making Autonomy" ExpressO (2011)
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