A Feminist Social Justice Approach to Reproductive Technologies: A Case Study in the Limits of Liberal Theory
Professor of Philosophy and Director Women's Studies Program, University of Kentucky
Joan Callahan is Professor of Philosophy and Director of Women's Studies at the University of Kentucky. She has published four books and numerous articles in professional ethics, biomedical ethics, ethical theory, ethics and public policy, social and political philosophy, and philosophy of law. She serves in a number of professional offices, including the American Philosophical Association's Committee on the Status of Women, the Steering Committee for the Association of Feminist Ethics and Social Theory, and the Executive Committee for the American Section of the International Association for Philosophy of Law and Social Philosophy. She is currently editor of The Newsletter on Feminism and Philosophy, a mini-journal published by the American Philosophical Association.
A Feminist Social Justice Approach to Reproduction-Assisting Technologies: a Case Study on the Limits of Liberal Theory
This paper takes up an issue at the intersection of political theory, biomedical ethics, and public policy. It begins with a few observations that suggest that there are troubling systematic inequities along the axes of sex, race, and class in relation to several dimensions of contemporary human reproduction. The purpose of the paper is threefold: (1) to suggest how contemporary liberal theory leads these inequities, (2) to contribute to a systematic articulation and illumination of a feminist social justice approach to questions of law and policy that addresses concerns about these systematic inequities, and (3) to show why this approach should be standard in any society that purports to take the interests of all its citizens equally seriously, no matter what their social location. In particular, the paper is meant to show that a feminist social justice approach better serves the fundamental moral ideals embraced by liberalism, namely, individual liberty and the moral equality of persons, than does contemporary liberal theory. This is argued by focusing on contemporary reproduction-assisting technologies as a case study to help see where contemporary liberalism leaves us in regard to these technologies and why that position is deficient on each of the liberal's own axiological axes of liberty and equality.