Date of Award

2021

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Department

Women's Studies and Gender Studies

Abstract

Several studies have shown that marginalized populations, especially those of non-white race/ethnicity, have an increased risk of having infants born with severe birth defects. Existing hypotheses from the scientific literature on the topic of birth defects have primarily suggested that these trends may be the result of differential genetic susceptibilities within certain racial groups, a theory that reifies the (currently disproven) biological basis of race. Through this thesis, I argue that the myth of the biological basis of race continues to exist within maternal-fetal medicine today, where it is used to further the narrative that the bodies of women of color are hosts of degeneracy, as exemplified through the case study of increased rates of birth defects. I suggest that the assumption that disparities in birth defects are based on race-specific genetics turns our attention away from other explanations that are more likely to be the problem - explanations that are likely tied to systemic racism. This process perpetuates a cycle defined by white supremacy and reproductive injustice that works to deny women of color the right to have healthy offspring who are not affected by adverse environments and stressors that stem from systemic oppression. Ultimately, through this project, I hope to investigate how we can meaningfully acknowledge differences, including those differences that contribute to racial health disparities in the field of maternal-fetal health, in ways that do not reify the biological basis of race but instead work to affirm reproductive justice for our most marginalized populations.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.

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