Monday, February 27, 2012

More from A Symposium on Women’s Legal History: A Global Perspective

As I am now in the process of writing an introduction for the Chicago-Kent Law Review’s Symposium on Women’s Legal History (to be published later in the Spring), I wanted to highlight two more articles. (See my earlier Post of February 1).

Mary Ziegler’s (St. Louis University School of Law) article, “The Possibility of Compromise: Antiabortion Moderates after Roe v. Wade, 1973-1980,” challenges the polarization narrative of Roe v. Wade. Ziegler reconsiders whether Roe created a “clash of absolutes” and instead explores how women activists attempted to create a middle-ground. Ziegler adds to the historiography of conservative women’s groups by recapturing “pro-woman” antiabortion activist groups that, unlike the more well-known STOP ERA and the Concerned Women for America, identified with second-wave feminism or were at least willing to form alliances with feminist groups. Such women opposed abortion but also supported birth control, government sponsored child care programs, maternity leave, and anti-discrimination legislation. Ziegler argues that the present absolutism in which anti-abortion groups also oppose liberal feminism is an outgrowth of political and cultural shifts rather than a reaction to Supreme Court rulings.

Kara Swanson (Northeastern University School of Law) traces the origins of artificial insemination in her article, “Adultery by Doctor: Artificial Insemination, 1890-1945.” Swanson examines the complicated legal issues brought forth by the new medical procedure at a time when there was little legal authority on the issue and questions about the procedure’s legality and the child’s lawful parents were deeply contested. At least some medical authorities attempted to frame the procedure as a form of adultery by the doctor, essentially marginalizing mothers and making such children illegitimate. Swanson’s work uncovers the ways in which doctors used medicolegal discourse to frame the issue and the ways in which popular literature then followed suit. Yet even with the condemnation of the procedure by some doctors and the popular press, infertile couples along with their doctors continued having children in a legal netherworld.