Babies, Bodies, and Buyers

Williams, Patricia J.

In the thirty-five years since I began my career in legal education, much about the status of women, gender and sexuality has changed. There are the obvious triumphs: more female students, faculty and deans—as well as more bathrooms for more kinds of people than just “men.” Life is less lonely now, and conversation more intersectional. There is more openness about LGBT issues. There is marriage equality, however contested. And there is less general tolerance for open forms of harassment.

But challenges remain. While reproductive rights have always been at the center of women’s work in the academy, that conversation has changed in complex ways in recent years—in no small part because of revolutionary new assisted-reproductive and genetic technologies. From oosplasmic transfer1 to pre-implantation genetic diagnosis2 to the precise gene-editing capabilities of Crispr-cas9,3 these technologies can facilitate quiet forms of eugenic natalism. Increasingly, consumerist rather than dignitary notions of choice have been deployed to chase non-medical, cosmetic notions of human perfectibility. I worry that this shift signals an ever-more pervasive styling of bodies—including future bodies—as private property, and as inert clay-for-the-molding.


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Columbia Journal of Gender and Law

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October 17, 2017