Where’s Lysistrata when you need her?
Laura Purdy

Editor’s Note: We have had a few blogs that reference The Handmaid’s Tale since Season 1 of the Hulu series began in 2017, and one that did so several years ago which had a lively discussion in the comments.  Here, Laura Purdy responds to a new law in Missouri that resulted from a special session called by Governor Eric Greitens for the purpose of addressing abortion legislation. It was in response to a St. Louis city ordinance that would have prohibited discrimination in housing or employment against people who had used birth control or had an abortion. The Governor began calling St. Louis an “abortion sanctuary city” and determined to prevent the city from preventing this kind of discrimination. Also up for debate in the MO legislature is a sweeping abortion bill which contains many other regulations and restrictions on abortion, passed the Missouri House on June 20, 2017, and now heads back to the Missouri Senate.

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Once the mind gets going on something this absurd and horrible, it is hard to get it focused on anything else: “Had an abortion or use birth control? In Missouri, you could be disqualified from a job for that” (or housing). I present this in case anybody still thought that “theocracy,” “war on women,” or allusions to The Handmaid’s Tale were too extreme.

Walking 2 by 2, women in red cloaks with white bonnets, like the costumes worn by Handmaids in the Hulu series, ascend a staircase to enter the chambers of the Missouri Legislature to watch the House debate a bill in May. The picture was posted on the Twitter account of Planned Parenthood Missouri Advocates. The text reads "The handmaids were forced to remove their bonnets before being allowed to watch the Missouri House. #MoLeg #PraiseBe #HandmaidsTale." It is dated May 3 of 2017.

An allusion to The Handmaid’s Tale.

This is a quantum leap beyond anti-abortion politics in general and raises so many questions.

Broadly, and most obviously, since when is religious freedom limited to potential employers/landlords? (Not to mention moral principles . . . . )

More picky: what about HIPAA?

Since when do potential employers/landlords have access to one’s health care records*?

Does this mean new opportunities for those lesbians and nuns and other women who have never had need of contraception or abortion?

Or is this just an opening for more “religious freedom” in the form of required video cams (or smart TV’s) in women’s bedrooms?

Why beat around the bush with these petty incremental restrictions on women’s rights? Why not just come right out with it and repeal the 19th Amendment?

And finally, where’s Lysistrata when you need her; time for a babystrike?

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*Editor’s Note: a colleague with experience in housing and job discrimination notes that this could become an application question, and a true answer could be used to deny while a false one could be used to charge fraud and fire or evict.
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BREAKING NEWS: disabled persons protest US Senate healthcare bill and cuts to Medicaid (includes link roundup)
Editor

In the Capitol rotunda, a person sitting on a red mobility scooter hold a sign that reads “Medicaid = Life 4 Disabled.” They are part of a group of people packed close together, some using mobility devices, one holding a cane for visually impaired wayfinding, and others standing. Capitol police in duty uniforms are in the foreground between the camera and the protestors. Bundles of zipties hang from their belts.

As you may know, the US is in the midst of the Republican party’s long-promised efforts to “repeal and replace” the Affordable Care Act, AKA Obamacare. Earlier this year, the US House of Representatives passed a bill called the American Health Care Act (aspects of which were previously covered by Rory Kraft here and here and in a post by the Editor at IJFAB Blog). After weeks of closed-door Senate negotiations, the text of the Senate bill has just been released, and includes serious cuts to the healthcare safety net program Medicaid, which provides care for low-income persons and disabled folks in the US.  The Senate bill has been renamed the Better Care Reconciliation Act.

Today, activists organized by ADAPT–ADAPT is an advocacy group for disabled persons that has a long history of protesting for policies that de-institutionalize persons with disabilities while still providing support for in-home adaptions and care–filled the halls of Congress outside Republican Congressional leader Mitch McConnell’s offices, chanting against cuts to Medicaid. The protesters clogged the hall with their bodies and assistive devices, including wheelchairs, before they were carried away by police, often with two or three officers per person carrying uncooperative, unruly bodies. Continue reading

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“Rogue” doctor in India provides fertility to older patients
Editor

This image from a 2016 video in the Independent shows a 70-year-old Indian woman who had recently given birth, along with her husband. They hold the infant in their arms. The woman gazes down at it while the man looks toward the photographer. The video link is embedded at the end of this blog entry.

As profiled in a recent Independent article, Dr. Anurog Bishnoi provides in vitro fertilization services to women who are often deemed “too old” by medical standards. Reading this excerpt, and the article, you might keep in mind classic themes of bioethics and feminist bioethics: the therapeutic/technological imperative, that women are subject to pressures that men are not, that demands for fertility often mean that women’s bodies bear the costs, and that medicine can help people to meet social norms (even if those social norms are problematic).

Gurjeet is the child Kaur yearned for desperately, after 40 years of being that thing which a rural Indian woman dreads more than almost anything else – barren. She gave birth at 58 years old, with help from a controversial IVF clinic in this corner of north India that specialises in fertility treatments for women over 50.

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Nigerian medical ethicists and insurers call for regulation of medical insurance and practice
Editor

A June 15, 2017 article found at AllAfrica, and drawing on work by The Guardian, summarizes some of the arguments made at a recent conference in Nigeria. The one-day conference was titled “Ethics in medical practice: The need for Protocol in healthcare delivery.” You can read more here.

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Hypatia review of Phenomenology of Illness

This image is captured from the Hypatia Reviews Online website. It shows the cover of Carel's  book, Phenomenology of Illness, which is simple text of the title and author's name on an abstract greyscale background of shapes that is reminiscent of the tone of X-ray films but is not one. It also has a quote from Wieseler's review which reads ""Phenomenology of Illness makes a significant, original contribution to philosophy, and will, no doubt, spur much-needed conversation about ways both philosophy and health care must change if the experiences of people with illnesses and impairments are to be taken seriously."

Over at Hypatia Reviews Online, Christine Wieseler (U-Texas McGovern Center for Humanities & Ethics) has given a concise and useful review of a new book in philosophy of medicine. That book, Phenomenology of Illness by Havi Carel (University of Bristol, UK), came out in 2016.

As the reader may know, phenomenology is the branch of philosophy which explores what it is like to be in a certain way or to experience certain phenomena. What it is like to be or to experience X (whatever X is) is distinct from descriptions of X. Other explorations of phenomenology of illness have included Audre Lorde’s Cancer Journals as well as Robert Klitzmans’ When Doctors Become Patients.

Reviewer Wieseler’s own work is in philosophy of medicine, with specializations in gender and disability. Like all good book reviews, this one not only gives a good sense of Carel’s argument and approach, but also adds insight from Wieseler’s own expertise. Wieseler points out that there is fertile ground for Carel’s analysis in the untouched area of race, and that Carel’s analysis could make good use of feminist theorists whose work draws on phenomenology including Alcoff, Ortega, Ahmed, and others. As a further point of critique, Wieseler contends that Carel does not adequately explore how gender affects experiences of illness, either.

Wieseler closes the review with praise:

Most portrayals of illness and impairment in the media take the form of tragic or heroic narratives rather than capturing everyday experiences of illness and impairment (Clare 1999; Wendell 2008; Kafer 2013). Carel accomplishes quite the feat in sharing both the difficulties and losses associated with chronic illness as well as the positive aspects, which are usually overshadowed in our thinking about illness. She neither evokes pity nor suggests that she has triumphed over her condition. Her narrative is one of living with a significant chronic illness rather than a tragic or heroic narrative. 

This book, and Wieseler’s review of it, may be of interest to IJFAB Blog readers.

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To reproduce or not to reproduce, and if so how much, that is the question
Alison Reiheld

Over at Foreign Policy recently, philosophers Travis Rieder and Rebecca Kukla engaged in a thoughtful, pleasant, and yet provocative dialogue about reproductive considerations in light of climate change (Rieder, Colin Hickey, and Jake Earl recently published an article about the ethics of having children given climate change in Social Theory and Practice).

This 2011 editorial cartoon by Jeff Parker has two panels. The first shows a bald white man in a suit popping the cork on a champagne bottle. He says “World population hits 7 billion!! Let’s celebrate!” The next panel shows the same man holding the open bottle. We can now see that its label says “Earth’s Resources.” Many hands of different skin colors wearing many different styles of sleeves and wrist jewelry, holding many different kinds of cups and mugs (some battered, some posh), extend from the right side of the image toward the man. He says “Um… there may not be enough for everyone…”

Kukla directs us to remember how reproductive control decisions and consequences fall almost exclusively on women’s agency and bodies, and that women’s reproductive decisions all too often are tasked with solving social problems.  Rieder included this lucid short description of his own family’s decision-making:

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Online Symposium on Melinda Hall’s book on disability and biopolitics
Editor

The blog Discrimination and Disadvantage is in the midst of an on-line symposium on Melinda Hall’s new book The Bioethics of Enhancement: Transhumanism, Disability, and Biopolitics.

Commentaries by Shelley Tremain as well as Jane Dryden and Ladelle McWhorter are already up, with one more forthcoming from Catherine Clune-Taylor. At the end of this week, Hall, herself, will respond to the commentary. If you love a good Author Meets Critics session at a conference, or enjoy a good book review as much as the book itself, this is just the thing for you. It’s also a good first step into disability ethics and Foucauldian power analyses of biopolitics.

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“Intersex Patients ‘Routinely Lied To By Doctors'”, per recent BBC Radio 4 article
Editor

Surprising absolutely no one who follows the history of intersex treatment in the United States, BBC Radio 4 has a recent story about the history of intersex treatment in the UK with the provocative headline “Intersex Patients ‘Routinely Lied To By Doctors’.” The article is in the past tense, taking a historical view:

Ieuan Hughes, emeritus professor of paediatrics at the University of Cambridge and an expert in hormone disorders, says cover-ups used to be routine in cases such as this.

“In those days the consensus in the medical profession was that the truth would not be disclosed to the patient… and the general advice was for parents not to disclose the true diagnoses to the children.

The article does also address modern practice guidelines, which is increasingly in line with what

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The Biggest Health Problem Facing Canada: Indigenous Health
Editor

EDITOR’S NOTE: An expanded version of this editorial by Editor Alison Reiheld was solicited by the Canadian bioethics blog Impact Ethics. You can find it here. It contains links to more indigenous authors and groups about these kinds of health issues affecting their communities.

In a recent interview in Chatelaine with André Picard, a well-known Canadian health columnist for the Globe and Mail, Picard discusses the deficits of Canada’s health  care system as well as its merits. For anyone working on Canadian health care or on health policy anywhere, it is worth taking a look. he discusses dental care, home care, long-term care, the effect of an aging population, and more. One of his takeaway quotes no doubt is “Nearly 40 countries in the world have universal health care, and it’s all more universal than ours.”

But something interesting and important and underattended is raised when the interviewer asks Picard, “What is the most urgent issue in Canada right now?” Picard’s answer:

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Mandatory Sterilization for transgender people as a requirement of legal gender recognition struck down in Europe
Editor

Four years ago, nearly to the day, IJFAB Blog contributor Alison Reiheld wrote on the repeal of Swedish laws that had required transgender person to be sterile (or become sterile) AND to have surgical sex reassignment in order to change their gender on legal documents (“Transitions In Law: What Struggles Over Policy Changes Affecting Transgender Persons Reveal“).  This is important because discordance between legal documents and gender presentation is one way that trans persons are “outed.” It thus increases discrimination, harassment, and violence in every arena of life from commerce to housing to healthcare to marriage.  In addition, requiring these expensive, invasive, and life-altering procedures for persons who might not otherwise choose them treads dangerously into coercive practice.  It is thus a bioethics issue. In the case of Sweden, these laws were overturned in 2013.

Well, in case you missed it, in April of 2017, the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) struck down mandatory sterilization for transgender people based on Article Eight of the European Convention of Human Rights: “everyone has the right to respect for his private and family life, his home and his correspondence.”

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The Revenge Effects of Electronic Medical Records
Alison Reiheld

In 1996, historian of science Edward Tenner published his influential book Why Things Bite Back: Technology and the Revenge of Unintended ConsequencesIt is an extended consideration of how technology comes to demand much of us even as it frees us from demands. In it, Tenner introduces a concept that has come to be important in philosophy of technology: the revenge effect. Revenge effects are in play when a technology designed to alleviate a particular burden in fact imposes that burden. As Tenner puts it, “when a safety system encourages enough additional risk-taking that it helps cause accidents, that is a revenge effect.” This is an apt description of some of the consequences of Electronic Medical Records (EMR), also sometimes referred to as Electronic Health Records (EHR).

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Time to Update IJFAB’s Pronoun Conventions?
Kathryn MacKay

In light of recent controversies in philosophy surrounding how philosophers ought best to write about vulnerable social identities–whether gender or race–I’ve been thinking about some things. Many things, many of which I will not get into here. One of them is the lack of representation in philosophy of trans people, people of colour, and trans people of colour (perhaps especially). It is productive that we are now discussing the dearth of scholarship and faculty positions held by trans people in philosophy. In this post, I exclusively want to discuss something that has been bugging me for months, but which now seems, if not urgent, then at least extremely topical: pronouns.

A few months ago, I was working with the copy editor at IJFAB because I had a paper accepted for publication and my manuscript needed to be worked up to fit the journal’s style conventions. My paper, like all my work, had been written without the use of gendered pronouns. As part of my commitment to encouraging recognition and greater acceptance of gender as non-binary, I use third-person plural pronouns in the third-person singular position. The Merriam-Webster dictionary calls this ‘the singular they,’ and some journals and newspapers have adopted its use as standard. IJFAB Blog, itself, has discussed this issue previously.

Using the singular they, for those who aren’t used to it, can result in some awkward sentence constructions. For example, I would have no problem saying in conversation or writing the following phrase: “I saw my friend, Chris, on the street today, and they were wearing yellow trousers.” For some, the combination of ‘my friend, Chris’ and ‘they’ is confusing and disruptive. I acknowledge this. However, I think that a little awkwardness is a reasonable price to pay for greater gender inclusivity in our speech and writing.

IJFAB has not yet adopted this convention. As a result, I had to change all of the instances of sentence constructions like the one above in my manuscript to he/she, or pick a pronoun to go with (most often, ‘she’). This bothered me, and not because it was a hassle. It bothered me because as THE journal of feminist bioethics, I expect IJFAB to be on the leading edge of feminist and (bio)ethical issues. IJFAB should be leading the way in gender inclusiveness, not holding on to the ‘old school’ of grammar or other conventions.

One thing we can learn from the recent storm in philosophy is that we, as in those of us with privilege and especially those of us in the establishment, need to work harder to create the space for diverse voices. I propose that we encourage IJFAB, our beloved journal, to update its style guide, and make a move toward non-binary gender inclusivity by adopting the singular they.

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