An impassioned argument for reproductive rights
In the late 1960s and early 1970s, advocates of legal abortion mostly used the term rights when describing their agenda. But after Roe v. Wade, their determination to develop a respectable, nonconfrontational movement encouraged many of them to use the word choice--an easier concept for people weary of various rights movements. At first the distinction in language didn't seem to make much difference-the law seemed to guarantee both. But in the years since, the change has become enormously important.
In Beggars and Choosers, Solinger shows how historical distinctions between women of color and white women, between poor and middle-class women, were used in new ways during the era of "choice." Politicians and policy makers began to exclude certain women from the class of "deserving mothers" by using the language of choice to create new public policies concerning everything from Medicaid funding for abortions to family tax credits, infertility treatments, international adoption, teen pregnancy, and welfare. Solinger argues that the class-and-race-inflected guarantee of "choice" is a shaky foundation on which to build our notions of reproductive freedom. Her impassioned argument is for reproductive rights as human rights--as a basis for full citizenship status for women.
Beggars and Choosers: How the Politics of Choice Shapes Adoption, Abortion, and Welfare in the United States
is a thorough feminist history of public policy on abortion since Roe v. Wade
, as well as a reconsideration of recent political strategy. Rickie Solinger's third book on reproductive rights hinges on a crucial semantic shift in the 1970s from "abortion rights" to the softer, less direct "choice" and "pro-choice," itself an attempt to shake off the awkward "pro-abortion" tag. While "rights" are undeniable, Solinger asserts, "choice" is a market-driven concept. "Historical distinctions between women of color and white women, between poor and middle-class women, have been reproduced and institutionalized in the "era of choice," she continues, "in part by defining some groups of women as good choice makers, some as bad."
Solinger also advances a troubling economic thesis about adoption, defined roughly as "the transfer of babies from women of one social classification to women in a higher social classification or group." Bracing and well-researched, Solinger's arguments should be considered by anyone working for women's and children's rights. --Regina Marler