CAPPE 16th Annual Interdisciplinary Conference

15-17 September 2021

The conference was held online and was entirely free to attend.

Recent years have witnessed renewed interest in the politics of reproduction and care in a wide range of fields, in response to conflicts over reproductive rights around the world and an ever-deepening ‘crisis of care’ driven by neoliberal capitalism.

Globally, reproductive rights are increasingly under threat. Abortion bans have been sought and actually achieved in several countries, while reproductive healthcare is rendered increasingly difficult for many people to access. At the same time, reproductive technologies in the form of IVF, egg-freezing and surrogacy continue to develop and are marketed to consumers within multimillion-dollar industries.

Concurrently, in some parts of the world the dismantling and underfunding of welfare states has produced a crisis in the provision of care. The work of care increasingly rests on the shoulders of always low paid, often migrant, workers, exacerbating inequalities within global care chains. The retraction of welfare provision also intensifies demands to take on unpaid social reproductive and caring labour, a burden that disproportionately affects women.

This conference invites reflection on reproductive politics in the 21st century. In what ways has biological reproduction – procreation – become marshalled, restricted, enabled, or exploited under conditions of global capitalism? How should critical thought and politics respond? And in what ways has the labour of caring for people – social reproduction – been commodified and/or exploited in contemporary societies? What might be alternative ways of organising caring work? How might one theorise, furthermore, the relations between biological and social reproduction?

These questions have become particularly urgent in the light of Covid 19, which has reignited debate about the valuation/devaluation of social reproduction and caring work; and in response to the Black Lives Matter movement’s demands for racial justice, voiced in the context of maternal healthcare provision pervaded by racial inequalities, in which disproportionate numbers of African American women die in childbirth each year.

Papers drew on a range of critical approaches, including feminism, queer theory, critical race studies, philosophy, politics and disability studies among others.

Keynote speakers: Dr Sophie Lewis; Professor Lynne Segal


Fran Amery | University of Bath, UK Menstrual justice and reproductive justice

Menstrual justice and reproductive justice are intimately connected. While some authors have identified menarche as the point at which those who menstruate begin to need reproductive justice, menstruation itself is not always clearly theorised in reproductive justice scholarship. Reproductive justice activism in practice, however, has often coalesced around matters such as incarcerated women’s access to menstrual products.

This paper will contribute to the conceptualisation of menstrual justice as a dimension of reproductive justice. Researchers have begun to develop frameworks for understanding menstrual (in)justice, although existing conceptualisations have been developed with reference primarily to issues affecting countries in the Global North, such as the ‘tampon tax’. Due to this focus, to date this work has missed some key aspects of menstrual injustice that impact menstruators globally. This paper therefore develops the menstrual justice framework with the aim of extending its global relevance. It will argue that this requires particular attention to environmental injustices connected to menstruation, injustices connected to state power and regulation of menstrual practices and injustices relating to security and personal safety – and how all of these intersect with broader issues of reproductive (in)justice. It will also explore how the menstrual justice framework might be employed as a counter to the highly individualised and medicalised approaches to ‘menstrual hygiene management’ that are currently predominant in the international development sector, and whether the obligation for menstruators to ‘manage’ their menstruation may usefully be described as a form of labour in itself.

Agnieszka Bień-Kacała, Nicolaus Copernicus University, Poland Abortion law and courts in illiberal constitutionalism Spotlight on Poland and Hungary

The content of the abortion decision and the process through which the Polish Constitutional Tribunal delivered its ruling in October 2020 fits into the human rights illiberalisation process of this country. Banning abortion or introducing new restrictions, however, have been present neither in political discussions nor in scholarly discourse in Hungary. It, however, does not change the fact that women in this country have been facing still unattended but both politically and legally resolvable challenges. Since the last 11 and 6 years in Hungary and Poland, respectively, the human rights situation resembles a “glass half empty and a glass half full”: from a former liberal constitutionalism perspective, the glass is quite empty. However, there is still the possibility to exercise human rights, and these rights are still better protected than, or at least differently protected than, in an authoritarian state. Thus, from this perspective, the glass is half full. Still, there is an apparent deterioration and illiberalisation, in the sense that the scope of human rights has been narrowed, diversity has been disappearing, and inequality, exclusion and intolerance have been increasing – a glass half empty.

Constitutional courts have been actively contributed to developing illiberal constitutionalism and weakening human rights protection. These courts themselves have been illiberalized: they were packed and have been used as “legitimizing actors”, making decisions on behalf, and, sometimes, instead of the political branch of government. Against this background, one would intuitively assume that in states where paternalism and misogyny of political leaders are more common phenomena than gender mainstreaming, and Christian (Hungary) and Catholic (Polish) constitutional identity is artificially emerging, women’s right to their body, i.e., abortion rights are inevitably disregarded. After comparing the Hungarian and Polish abortion laws, and analyzing the role of the illiberal Polish Constitutional Tribunal in depriving women of their free choice and the lack of the same political will in Hungary, this paper claims, first, that this mentioned intuition is not entirely correct. Secondly, it argues that abortion, like many other social issues, also exemplifies the instrumental use of law for political gain. This instrumental use of law includes the abusive and selfish activation of an illiberal court (Poland), which, as expected from it, complies without reservation. Alternatively, the instrumental use of law means, paradoxically, a respect for the decisions of the former liberal court (Hungary).

Megan Borrman, Independent Scholar Dildos, Bulldaggers and Bioengineered Organs: A Guide to Preciado’s Countersexuality

In a hetero-patriarchal context, sexual biology is often understood through a reproductive lense. However, there are many queer voices, movements, theories, practices, and subcultures that challenge this. One of these voices is Paul Preciado, whose Countersexual Manifesto (2018) radically ‘demands the absolute separation of sexual activities and reproductive activities’, pushing for a countersexual society wherein reproductive organs are ‘severed, extracted, and deterritorialized from bio- organs’.

According to Preciado, this is necessary in order for us to fully understand our relationship to our bodies, our desires, our boundaries and to each other. But what does this mean for reproductive rights? And how can we embrace a proposal like this when the history of reproductive control is one violently fraught with eugenics, white supremacy and classism? Just as when Shulamith Firestone called for us to ‘seize the means of [re]production’ in 1970, she didn’t mean new oppressors with the power to gestate babies in labs will be created in the process, Preciado is not calling for state powers or oppressors to take immediate control of existing technologies to systematically sterilise everyone, nor does he focus his argument around sterilisation. This is where the dildo comes into his work. For Preciado, the dildo is not necessarily a physical and determinable instrument used solely for pleasure but is something that is a low tech, accessable and powerful tool that ‘acts as a reference of power and/or sexual arousal, betraying the anatomical organ’ by reconfiguring its central role in sex to a non-existant one (the Countersexual Manifesto could itself be read as a dildo, as can this proposal).

Although Preciado uses an admittedly violent and threatening word ‘severe’ when talking about this separation, he does not mean by force (countersexual society is founded upon consent and pleasure), nor does it have to be clinical or medical. It can be about using the technologies we have to hand in order to deterritorialise the genitals from reproduction and in doing so open new experiences, sexualities, and ways of experiencing pleasure, desire and somatic autonomy. Didonics is where organic and inorganic matter interact, where the artificiality of intimacy is exposed and embraced with excitement because the dildo is capacious, it can free us from performing heternormativity, from binary understandings of sex and genitals, it encourages the plasticity of our bodies and makes cyborgs of us all.

This paper will act as an accessible guide as to how dildonics does this whilst keeping in mind the history of state violence surrounding reproductive control, and how the dildo is both a symbol and a referent born out of that struggle for body autonomy.

Sydney Calkin | Queen Mary University of London, UK “Follow the Thing”: Abortion Pills

Pharmaceutical abortion pills are transforming the safety and accessibility of abortion as they become more widely available in countries without legal abortion. Where do these pills originate? How do they move? And how do they change legal, political, and social status as they cross borders? This paper adapts the economic geography methodology of “following the thing” (Cook 2004) to understand the cross-border trajectories of abortion pills. The paper engages with the call to “juxtapose and montage” different stages in the production, transportation, and consumption cycle of this product, as a way of unpacking its geographical complexity (Cook and Crang 1996). Empirically, the paper is centred on Poland where abortion pills are becoming more widely available, from various retailers and activist networks, and are subsequently transforming abortion access in a restrictive legal context. Abortion pills enter Poland through different routes which determine their legal status, the authorities who rule on their permissibility, the way end-users perceive their quality, and their relationship to broader political change. “Following” the abortion from pharmaceutical origin point in India to the embodied process of consumption in Poland, the paper presents a challenge to the way feminist scholars have traditionally understood abortion and political struggles for abortion access.

Camila Cavalcante, Independent Artist/Scholar, Strategies in feminist photography and the fight for abortion rights: Olivia Harris, Emma Campbell, and Laia Abril

In this paper, I investigate the strategies of feminist photography to communicate a feminist message in the context of abortion using projects by three photographers as case studies: Olivia Harris, Emma Campbell, and Laia Abril. I apply a combination of visual methodologies – discourse analysis, semiology and social semiotics – and reflexivity to evaluate the effectiveness of their feminist messages.

In order to do so, I consider each photographic project as a whole, incorporating analyses of individual images by each photographer, captions, and explanatory texts. My theoretical approach is imbedded in the intersection between photography, feminism and activism. My starting point is the political use of photography by Azoulay (2008), and I structure my approach around four strategies that I identify in feminist photography: representational, communicative, interpersonal, and archival. I argue that photographers Olivia Harris, Emma Campbell, and Laia Abril successfully use at least one of these strategies, but the most effective feminist messages about abortion is conveyed by projects that apply a well-considered communicative strategy.

As a feminist researcher, I hope my findings have an impact on feminist photography theory, particularly in creating a language that helps facilitate understanding of the role the medium plays in developing and disseminating a feminist discourse. As a visual artist with experience creating photography in the context of abortion, I hope my analysis will help other artists communicate their feminist messages, develop multiple layers of engagement with their audience, and contribute to a legacy of feminist photography.

Giulia Cavaliere, Lancaster University Medical School, UK Abortion is not gender neutral: Rethinking ectogestation and abortion

In this talk, I will argue that abortion is not a gender neutral practice, that it does not have gender neutral implications and that it is not sought, undertaken and sustained in gender neutral socio-political circumstances. In short, the apparently evident fact that abortion is the interruption of an unwanted pregnancy, and that it is women who seek and undertake abortions has a bearing on normative discussions on the moral standing of this practice. Two normative points follow from these considerations, one methodological and one substantive. The methodological point is that—when discussing the morality of abortion and the contours of obligation of those involved in this practice—the non-gender neutrality of abortion is to be taken as an integral part of the discussion rather something than is tangential to the core moral issues involved in it. Moreover, once the non-gender neutrality of abortion is taken aboard, substantive moral conclusions follow concerning the nature of the practice and the obligations of those involved.

This talk is motivated by a certain impatience with the way resurfacing moral discourses on abortion question whether or not the right to have an abortion implies the right to the death of the foetus. These discourses are in turn reignited by the possibility of ectogestation, and the effects that the availability of this technology would have on the morality of abortion, the right to have an abortion and, I will argue, people’s intuitions regarding the legitimacy of this practice in the event of the concretisation of the possibility for ectogestation. My talk will proceed as follows: I will firstly show how these discussions have recently resurfaced in light of technological development and speculative thinking concerning the possibility of ectogestation, and some of the problematic issues that I see in these discussions. Then, I will move to my argument on the non-gender neutrality of abortion, which relies on three characteristics of this practice (relational accounts of responsibility; intimacy; role of women in the pregnancy; role of women in society). I will then consider two sets of implications of the gender-neutrality of abortion: methodological and substantive. I will conclude by examining and responding to objections to my argument.

Katja Čičigoj, Paderborn University, Germany From biological asymmetries to social relations of oppression: causality without determinism

Several strands of 1970s radical feminism famously foregrounded biological reproduction as one of the key realms, even the origin, of women’s oppression. This has been subsequently questioned and it remains contentious today.

For the reproductive justice movement, procreation is not simply something one ought to have the right to reject, but also what wider social arrangements should provide support for. On the other hand, signalling out human beings perceived to have at some point in their lives the capacity to give birth, as primary targets of patriarchal oppression, is critiqued for supporting biologically determinist, essentialist views and being trans exclusive.

Yet, as the uprisings against bans on reproductive freedom in Poland and Argentina, among others, have recently demonstrated, reproduction is still an issue capable of enticing mass feminist mobilisation on different continents. In this context, I propose to rethink some contributions of 1970s and earlier feminist thinkers. I argue that drawing upon these, and once a linear, monocausal and uni-directional model of causality is dropped, it is possible to appreciate, also in the context of a contemporary transinclusive and anti-racist feminist orientation, how biological reproduction has functioned as a potential site of gendered oppression.

I thus propose that theorising procreation not simply as a neutral capacity or potential, but as a terrain of inherent asymmetries and vulnerabilities, can have important upsides for a contemporary egalitarian politics. It can highlight that what modern political philosophers have imagined as a hypothetical ‘state of nature’ should be radically rethought: from a state populated with independent adult male equals, to one with multiply bodied, multiply abled, multiply dependent and multiply related beings. Upon such an understanding, the complex intricacy of depending upon, and being depended upon, that mark human procreation (from gestation, through childbirth, to nursing), and many more, if not most, situations of our lives, will need to be accounted for as necessary terrains of political struggle and collective intervention.

Georgia Clancy, University of Brighton, UK Neoliberalism and the Better Births Maternity Care Policy

Aim: To understand the role and manifestations of neoliberal policymaking in NHS England’s most recent maternity care policy, Better Births (2016), the perspectives and experiences of women and professionals.

Background: Better Births (2016) is currently being trialled, and in theory is due for roll out, across England. Much like previous maternity care policies, Better Births claims to create safer and more personalised maternity experiences, promote less-medicalised births and aims to put control back into the hands of women. However, unlike previous policies, it increasingly rests upon neoliberal concepts to do so.

Method: A mixed methods approach was taken including an analysis of the Better Births (2016) policy, 49 online questionnaires and 14 follow-up interviews with pregnant women and new mothers in a Better Births trial area. The study also included 13 interviews with a range of different maternity care providers operating inside and outside the NHS.

Findings: The neoliberal concepts of choice, informed decision-making and responsibility are key parts of the Better Births policy. Indeed, the policy represents ‘choice’ as both the problem and solution to improving maternity care. However findings suggest that both women are maternity care providers are wary about the possibility of delivering these aspects of care in practice and indeed problematise the extent to which women want increased responsibility for the health and care of both themselves and their baby.

Conclusion: Whilst choice and informed decision-making in neoliberal policymaking are often presented as a straightforward and linear process, this masks the complex reality of providing care and navigating choice. In reality, this process involves a complex negotiation of risk and uncertainty, for which women may be hesitant to assume personal responsibility. Oversimplifying choice in policy risks giving women unrealistic expectations of control and does not account for the support women need to facilitate individualisation.

Eléonore Crunchant, University of Geneva, Switzerland, Egg freezing and infertility anticipation in the context of biologization and biomedicalization

Egg freezing (EF) practices take place in a context of growing concerns about age-related infertility increase and environmental impacts on infertility in western countries. Although being presented in a universal way, risks of infertility being supposedly shared by every biological bodies, discourses on infertility anticipation mainly target upper-middle class white women. These discourses on risks of infertility put indeed responsibility on the individual to stay healthy to preserve their fertility, and some of them focus on the importance of prevention in a context of unequal access to health services.

How do women concerned by infertility anticipation deal with biologizing discourses on infertility in a context of neoliberal discourses and practices? I propose to discuss this question on the basis of the first interviews I conducted in France and Switzerland with women undergoing EF. Several elements emerged from the interviews.

I’ll first discuss how the women interviewed deal with the discourses about how they should better know about their fertility to better manage their reproductive life, and how they express anxiety related to knowing or not about their fertility. I will then present the discourse about fertility loss and the age limit of 35 that is being regularly presented by fertility clinics and physicians and how these discourses impact the bodies experiences of the women interviewed. When undergoing EF, women get individual measures of their ovarian reserve that is compared to diverse standardized curve that show the constant decrease of fertility with age. This leads for some women to a disentanglement between their age and the calculated age of their ovarian reserve.

I will then discuss to what extent the discourses on infertility anticipation, previously presented through the concept of “biological clock”, renew normative discourses about the right timing of women’s reproductive life in a context of biomedicalization and biologization of women’s bodies.

Barbara Dynda, University of Warsaw, Poland Restricting Abortion Law in Poland after 1989: The Feminist Grassroots Politics during the Crisis of Reproductive Rights

Given that Poland’s abortion laws were struggling with various problems after 1989, last year becoming especially critical under the government’s decision of banning almost all terminations. However, 2020 as a year of tremendous crisis regarding reproductive rights, is certainly not the threshold of Polish history, but rather the result of the last three decades of functioning both liberal and conservative institutions that were constantly pursuing procapitalist and patriarchal narratives; under the alliance between government elites and the hierarchs of the Church.

Through tracing back the history of feminist grassroots politics as a resistance to the dominant anti-abortion discourses in Poland, during my speech, I would like to analyse feminist groups that since the early ’90s help Polish women with access to abortion’s procedures. Via focusing on alternative approaches of organising caring work, as for example, printing brochures with telephone numbers to Western abortion centres, publishing zines with addresses of foreign women’s organizations, sharing narratives of women who underwent terminations procedures or, in particular, organising numerous crucial feminist protests around the crisis of reproductive rights in Poland, I would emphasise the important aspect of non-institutional feminist groups both material and emotional work, after the transition of 1989.

Focusing on feminist grassroots responses against restricting abortion law in Poland, I would therefore refer to feminist economy approaches concerning reproductive rights, including analyses of Claudia Goldin and Lawrence F. Katz. Apart from that, I would invoke the cultural perspectives on the emotions relating to feminist struggles during the Polish abortion crisis, and using Sianne Ngai and Ann Cvetkovich’s thoughts as regards the political dimension of affects and feeling would be especially helpful in this context.

Olivia Engle, Birbeck College University of London, UK Abortion within, across and beyond borders: theorising abortion travel in the 21st century

Abortion travel is not new. Women and pregnant people have sought abortions within and across borders since at least the early 20th century. Abortion travel is primarily undertaken by those living in rural or remote areas and in states or countries with restrictive abortion laws. The necessity of undertaking abortion travel is widely recognised as burdensome – even insurmountably so. Studies of abortion travel burdens overwhelmingly focus on travel distance and duration with limited qualitative measures.

In this paper I argue that a Euclidean approach to abortion travel, from point A to point B, limits our understanding of the spatial configuration of abortion access, particularly for rural women and pregnant people. I discuss the ongoing development of an abortion (im)mobilities framework in feminist geography that considers the social, political, affective, and intersectional nature of abortion travel as well as the role of medication abortion in reconfiguring the spatiality of abortion access. I outline the theoretical framework used in my PhD research: multiple (rural abortion) mobilities, which expands Schurr’s (2019) multiple reproductive mobilities – horizontal (across space), vertical (across society), representational, and embodied – to include critical discussions of rurality, rural distance, and the rural/urban access. To outline this framework, I draw on my research developing a model for measuring abortion access using qualitative geographic information systems (GIS). I also draw on my research on the potential of no-touch, direct-to-patient telemedicine medication abortion services to address geographic and spatial barriers to abortion care for rural women and pregnant people. I conclude that this framework of multiple (rural abortion) mobilities better elucidates the burden of abortion travel in the 21st century, particularly for rural women and pregnant people.

Maria Fannin, University of Bristol, UK Speculative Reproduction This paper focuses on the ‘speculative turn’ in reproduction and reproductive technologies.

Speculative thinking has long been a resource for feminist and queer theorists and artists, offering imaginative visions of the possible worlds of posthuman, technologically enhanced, and chimeric reproductive futures.

At the same time, speculation has emerged as a riskhedging and value-generating strategy in sectors of the fertility and biobanking industries, where the technical ability to direct the developmental trajectories of human tissues and cells has generated entirely new possibilities for transforming the body’s reproductive potential. In tracking between these enactments of speculative thinking and doing, this chapter explores both cultural and economic practices of speculation. It brings together visions of reproductive futures and the financial dimensions of speculation at work in the human reproductive bioeconomy. In doing so, the chapter signals how speculative reproduction calls for a temporal reorientation to the materiality of the body and its imagined limits.

Cordelia Freeman and Sandra Rodríguez, University of Exeter Chemical Geographies of Misoprostol: Feminist Networks and Abortion Technologies in Latin America

C22H38O5, or misoprostol, is a chemical that was designed by Searle to treat stomach ulcers with an important ‘side-effect’, the termination of pregnancy. In the 1980s the stark warning on the packet that sought to make users aware of this acted as an advertisement to Brazilians who wanted to end their pregnancies and by the 1990s, knowledge about how to use misoprostol to self-manage abortions had spread across Latin America. While misoprostol was not initially effective for a complete abortion, women’s bodies became laboratories of selfexperimentation to engineer an effective regimen. In this paper we argue that feminist networks and care labour have played an important role in transforming misoprostol from a chemical to a safe and effective technology of abortion.

Through interviews with activists in Chile, Peru, and Mexico, we show the relationship between the harnessing of ‘toxic’ biological effects and reproductive justice through three themes. First, we explain the biography of misoprostol and show how feminist networks work at and with the margins of law regarding the status of misoprostol and exploit its marginality as a legal/illegal product.

Second, we show how the existence of misoprostol is insufficient without access to the pills and so we trace the mobility of pills from manufacture to consumption, an often sticky and low-tech journey. Third, we argue that the mobility of pills is inadequate without the knowledge of how to take them and so we explore the contested role of information about how to safely administer misoprostol and the groups and techniques employed for disseminating this information.

We emphasize that feminist networks are far from a homogenous group and there are disagreements about how abortions should be practiced, who should be involved, and whether they should take place in a medical space or a private one. We conclude that information, technology, and feminist organising remain central to resisting threats to reproductive rights and creating new possibilities of abortion access irrespective of legislative changes.

Claire Grino, University of Geneva, Switzerland, From the prohibition of a biomedical practice to its eventual availability for free: the peculiar history of egg freezing for anticipated infertility (EFA) in France (2011 – 2021?)

Regarding the so-called “social egg freezing” or EFA, the case of France is on specific interest right now because the law of bioethics is reviewed and is on the verge of being changed. Up until now, EFA is strictly forbidden because it is not related to any pathology. However, this autumn the law should allow it, and according to informed voices, it should not only withdraw the prohibition but also make the technique available to all French citizens for free (to all persons enrolled in the French system of national health insurance). This possibility would render the situation in France very interesting for 2 reasons. First of all, the reimbursement of the procedure would be a unique case in the world. Secondly, it would mark a radical change concerning the way in which the biomedical technology is proposed: without any transition, the status of EFA would shift from an extreme to another, namely from a prohibited to a “free for all” position. Whether or not the law authorizes EFA in these exact terms in a few months, I want to document the shift and write the history of how EFA will have been provided in France.

For now, drawing on STS and feminist literatures as well as on a variety of empirical materials (like legal, medical and ethical guidelines, governmental debates, health providers interviews), I adopt an STS approach to describe two developments: the way oocytes vitrification, as a technique, has been implemented in French ARTs clinics for the so-called ”medical” purposes, and the treatment rationales through which up until now age-related-infertility is already treated in legal ways, by other means than EFA. EFA is a controversial practice. Examining the world of EFA and its underlying concern of fertility preservation from the perspective of the offer is a way to raise the issue of access. Indeed, individual choices have to be contextualized and reflect among other things the clinical and financial infrastructures through which EFA becomes accessible. My hypothesis is that the case of France will be very interesting because it will help to identify behind the unique question of price all the other mechanisms obstructing at a national level an equal access to (in)fertility care for all.

Sophie Jossi-Silverstein, Freie Universität Berlin, Germany The (im)possibility of reproducing property: gestational surrogacy and its contradictions

This paper seeks to conceptually connect social reproductive labor to the property regime of commercial gestational surrogacy in an attempt to contribute to ongoing debates on the demarcation of reproductive from productive labor. Analyzing the property and labor regimes of gestational surrogacy in this way serves the purpose here to refine an understanding of capitalism’s crisis tendencies.

The proposed analysis takes place in two steps. First, gestational surrogacy is defined by virtue of its relationship to property and labor. This touches primarily on the objective of the contract, as a negotiation of either reproductive services, goods or —and this hybrid state appears most likely— both. Surrogate labor emerges here as a useful boundary case between productive and reproductive labor. Second, this understanding of surrogacy as a boundary case informs a discussion of the relationship between modern commercial gestational surrogacy and the crisis tendencies of contemporary capitalism.

This draws on Sophie Lewis’ analysis of surrogacy, among others, as well as analyses like Nancy Fraser’s, according to which the normative and material crisis of contemporary capitalism is specifically reproductive in nature. Gestational surrogacy suggests itself for this analysis because of the way it can be read as indicative of a novel property regime. Although the practice of surrogacy is not unprecedented, the extent of its technological facilitation, legal codification, and embroilment with cultural debates on the status of biological descent and the diachronic nuclear family, make it expose and possibly accelerate existing contradictions in the social division of labor under capitalism. In this way, analyzing the demarcation of productive from reproductive labor through the lens of gestational surrogacy is conceptually and politically salient to elucidate the specifically post Fordist and transnational organization of kinship, caring labor, and reproductive resources.

Julia Kapelańska-Pręgowska, Nicolaus Copernicus University, Poland, The scales of the European Court of Human Rights.

Abortion restriction in Poland, the European consensus, and the State’s margin of appreciation. On 22 October 2020 Polish Constitutional Court ruled that an exception foreseen in the Act of 1993 that provided for legal abortion on embryo-pathological grounds is unconstitutional. This retrogressive step has lead to an almost total ban on abortions in Poland and trampled on a social compromise agreed almost three decades ago. This contribution attempts to anticipate a possible outcome of a hypothetical (but highly probable) application to the European Court of Human Rights, against the background of the existing Strasbourg case-law and other relevant legal material. It will be argued that by acknowledging the significance of a European consensus and the evolving universal standards concerning reproductive rights, the ECtHR would avoid two pitfalls, the first one connected with analysing the doubtful public interest in protecting morals, and the second one with a potential criticism of judicial activism and imposing its own moral evaluation of an abortion ban. Given the fact that to date, almost all abortion cases adjudicated by the ECtHR dealt with the problem of real and effective access to legal abortion, and only one – A., B. and C. v. Ireland concerned the lack of legal abortion per se, this case served as a point of reference for further considerations. I will address the challenges of a dynamic interpretation of the European Convention of Human Rights (ECHR) in this specific context, with a focus on the European consensus and its impact on the margin of appreciation accorded to States. Another critically assessed problem relates to the identification and interpretation of a legitimate aim to be achieved by the restrictive measures. I will argue that a change of approach and a redefinition of “morals” as a public interest is necessary. In addition, I will suggest that the ECtHR should take a broader systemic perspective into account, and look into the evolution of international standards concerning reproductive rights. In other words, would the Strasbourg Court pronounce a ban on abortion on embryo-pathological grounds as amounting to a violation of the ECHR because it does not pursue a legitimate aim or does not reach a fair balance between the competing interests and rights? Which rights and interests could be weighted on the scales of Justice, and which factors would be decisive for the purpose of the balancing exercise?

Elżbieta Korolczuk, Södertörn University and University of Warsaw, Poland Reproductive (in)justice in public debates and legal regulations concerning surrogacy in Poland

It is estimated that in the last decade the number of children born through surrogacy has increased tenfold, but in many countries, including Poland, this trend is not accompanied by public debates on this issue or societal and legal recognition of such arrangements. The article 61 of the Polish Family Code says that “a mother is a woman who gave birth to the child” and the 2015 bill on assisted conception allows only for medically justified in vitro fertilization for heterosexual couples, and does not mention surrogacy.

Additionally, in 2019 a new law was introduced which penalized “selling of children,” targeting cases when intended parents sign contracts with a woman willing to become a surrogate prior or during pregnancy. Polish citizens who attempt to circumvent these regulations by seeking surrogacy abroad, face legal challenges when trying to register children born through transnational surrogacy with local authorities or to confirm their right to Polish citizenship. Obtaining citizenship or a resident status for children is especially difficult when the parents are same-sex couples or single men: in one case Polish administrative body refused to grant citizenship to children of a gay couple stating that the recognition of same-sex parents would violate basic principles of the Polish legal system.

Internationally, the opposition to surrogacy is often justified as a way to prevent the injustice and exploitation of women and children but this argument is less pronounced in the Polish debate. Most vocal opponents of surrogacy in Poland root their position in religious views on assisted reproduction as against God’s will and “natural law.” Examined within a broader context of family related laws and policies in Poland, restrictions in access to assisted reproduction, including cuts in public funds for IVF treatments and limiting possibilities for registering children born through surrogacy abroad, can be interpreted as a case of “selective pronatalism.”

Drawing on analysis of regulations, practices and debates on surrogacy in Poland I examine how they are constituted in relation to different understandings of “justice” and “injustice”. Drawing on Nancy Fraser’s (2008) distinction between socioeconomic and cultural injustice I show how patterns of economic and cultural domination and non-recognition are perpetuated in the country.

Jenny Krutzina | University of Bergen, Norway Ignorance, blame and solutionism: Women’s health and the politics of infertility

Political concern for falling birth rates is widespread in Western countries, as ageing populations mean there will soon be too few children born to maintain current welfare systems. As a result, incentives for reproduction regularly appear on the political agenda. Public discourse typically centres on social reasons for the lack of births, ranging from blaming women for their decision to prioritise education and careers, to family-unfriendly labour policies and lack of affordable childcare. Infertility, as a medical reason, is rarely discussed in this context, despite messages of urgency from international scientists, such as Prof. Shanna Swan who suggests most couples may have to resort to assisted reproductive technologies (ARTs) by 2045. We currently lack understanding of infertility as a global health issue, and consequently, systematic research into the causes of infertility and their connection to women’s health is missing. The former is critical, because of states’ responsibility for some of the leading causes of infertility in both women and men (e.g. pollutants and toxins such as Bisphenol A, phthalates and other endocrine disruptors). The latter is crucial, as fertilityaffecting conditions such as polycystic ovary syndrome, endometriosis and adenomyosis are not only widespread and often severely affect quality of life, but they may also increase the risk of further health complications (e.g. diabetes, cardio-vascular conditions). These conditions frequently remain underdiagnosed and thus untreated, while access to ARTs is subsidised for those with a fair chance at success. This technological ‘solutionism’ fails to consider at least three important aspects: first, underlying causes of infertility are worth investigating from a women’s health perspective that extends beyond reproduction; second, ARTs carry a high physical and psychological cost with additional health risks for patients; and third, ARTs will not ‘solve’ infertility in all cases and may not be the right ‘solution’ for all women. Unfortunately, political interest in women appears primarily based in their reproductive function, also evidenced by the fact that infertility healthcare includes access to ARTs, but not psychological support or diagnostic interventions.

Ji-Young Lee, University of Copenhagen, Denmark Assisted reproduction as a case of social enhancement

In bioethical contexts, a distinction is usually drawn between treatment versus enhancement. Treatments are interventions that respond to some medical need (e.g. management of a disease), whereas enhancements are interventions that make individuals “better than well” by going above and beyond the meeting of some medical need.

Much of what captures the literature on human enhancement in philosophy involves speculative scenarios where individuals implement bio-technological or pharmacological means to improve human function. In my view, there are two reasons why this course of discussion is problematic. First, it suggests there is a neat distinction between treatment and enhancement. Secondly, these concepts are overtly medicalized – with a focus on alterations in the individual body. I propose that we reflect on, instead, a different category – what I call social enhancement – which I take to consist of the implementation of specific, effective, non-temporary, non-universal, nonobligatory interventions that make marginalized social groups better off than they otherwise would be without such intervention. So what kind of intervention would constitute a social enhancement?

I will first go through various examples that I take social enhancement to exclude, including general public goods and individual endeavours to enhance. Then I will discuss assisted reproduction for same-sex couples as a case study for social enhancement. As I will argue in this presentation, a lesbian couple gaining access to donor sperm in order to conceive a child (for example) fulfils the criteria of a social enhancement. My view is that social enhancement ought to be considered a welcome change of frame relative to the predominant treatment/enhancement dichotomy. I close the paper by reflecting on how the category of social enhancement blurs the treatment/enhancement distinction in an attractive way, and how it might challenge the overt medicalization of these two latter concepts.

Margaret McLaren and Sanjula Rajat, Rollins College, USA Colonialism and Reproductive Justice

Our paper aims to broaden current frameworks of reproductive justice as they apply in transnational contexts by using postcolonial theory as a lens through which to explore the power differentials rooted in neoliberal globalization. We focus on colonialist assumptions undergirding many contemporary studies of reproductive issues, specifically sex selective abortion, sterilization, and surrogacy, particularly as applied from the USA and the UK to the Indian context. Development projects, disciplinary frameworks, and policies often reflect dominant perspectives, including notions of progress and development deeply rooted in colonialist, racist, and gendered structures. We draw upon feminist and postcolonial theory to expose the ways in which discourses about reproduction rely on outmoded formulations of problems and issues that view reproductive issues as problems to be solved in terms of choice, freedom and equality rather than viewing them in the historical context of colonialism, unequal relations of power, population control, eugenics projects, biopolitics, and structural inequality.

Our aim is to expand feminist intersectional approaches to reproductive justice to include colonization in both national and transnational analyses. By examining sterilization of ethnic and racial minority women in the US and lower caste and ethnic minority women in India, we show parallels between the ways that States exert power to produce model citizens and reinforce notions of racial purity and superiority often rooted in colonialist modes of thinking. Looking at the issue of sex selective abortion in India helps to reframe abortion as firmly embedded within the context of structural inequality rather than simply an expression of individual choice or liberty. Finally, surrogacy reveals the ways in which both biological reproductive labor and social reproduction as care labor have been commodified as they cross borders, as well as the colonialist and racialized approach to surrogacy particularly as it pertains to women of color in the ‘global South’. We bring postcolonial theory and feminist theory into conversation with both theoretical work in philosophy and empirical work in sociology to propose a decolonized methodology for transnational research on reproductive issues.

Emma Milne and Karen Brennan, Durham University, UK and University of Essex, UK, The Infanticide Act as a Means Readdress Harms? Women Who Kill Their Infants and Reproductive Justice

Women who kill their infants have long been recognised as a group of violent offenders who deserve sympathy and compassion from the courts. Such public sentiment was one of the key motivators prompting the creation of the Infanticide Act 1922. The criminal offence of infanticide has received significant criticism, partly due to the medical and psychological undertones of the statute. Numerous feminist scholars have pointed to the Infanticide Act as an example of legal paternalism, and of pathologising infanticidal women, labelling them as ‘mad’, and so masking the social and cultural pressures that may lead a woman to kill her baby.

The social and cultural pressures that surround pregnancy and motherhood are numerous. Often overlooked and under-acknowledged, the demands on pregnant women and new mothers can be extensive. It is on this basis that we present a feminist argument in support of the Infanticide Act, advocating that it must remain a feature of modern criminal law. Reproductive justice, a concept that links reproductive rights with social justice, advocates that women and girls should have the economic, social, and political powers and resources to make healthy decisions about their bodies and their families. Within a reproductive justice framework, pregnant and postpartum women and new mothers would receive significantly more support and care from society as a whole. An evaluation of the current situation, would lead to a conclusion that women in the UK lack reproductive justice. Within this context, we argue that the Infanticide Act allows for a redress for women; compensating them for the social harms experienced as a result of their lack of reproductive justice. The offence of infanticide allows a rebalancing of the law in instances where lack of social support has resulted in women committing fatal acts of violence towards their children.

Lynsey Mitchell, Abertay University, UK Law’s Patriarchy: The Narrative War for Reproductive Rights

Abortion in Britain remains a paternalistic ritual requiring the (male) legal and political establishment to first acquiesce, and then individual women and pregnant people to seek permission from the (male) medical establishment. The mainstream political and legal discourse around abortion in the UK positions abortion access in Britain as a privilege rather than as reproductive healthcare for women and pregnant people. The result is that those seeking to promote access to abortion can be discouraged from pressing for further legal reform, as to do so invites the suggestion that this ‘privilege’ may be rescinded entirely.

These themes of privilege and paternalism can be seen in recent judgments of the UK Supreme Court. Despite legal challenges to the restrictive abortion regime in Northern Ireland, the UK courts continued to afford weight to the fact that Northern Irish women and pregnant people could ultimately undergo abortions in Britain. Such judicial narrativisation of abortion endorses the wider feminist critique that law has proven impervious to calls to re-interpret itself in a way that includes women’s lived experiences.

Thus, this paper argues that this narrative of privilege reifies a paternalistic approach to women’s bodily autonomy and inhibits activists’ attempts to guarantee unrestricted access to reproductive healthcare. This paper explores why, despite being so receptive to other claims on human rights grounds, the UK courts have been reluctant to situate lack of access to abortion as a human rights violation. It argues that in doing so, those paternalistic tropes that are consistently adopted in political discourse around abortion have become reflected by the courts. This ultimately makes it harder to push for liberalisation of abortion law because the legal establishment has solidified the view that abortion is not simply reproductive healthcare.

Adele Moore, University of Liverpool, UK, Ignorance, it’s anything but bliss: how is an epistemology of ignorance useful in the study of reproduction?

The speculum marked a true emblem of the Women’s Health Movement (WHM) during the 1970s and 80s, opening up orifices which had previously been locked away from women, in both a literal and metaphorical sense (Tuana, 2006, p. 2). The core aim of the WHM was to reclaim women’s bodies and the knowledge surrounding them, instigating a complete feminist reconfiguration, independent from androcentric, sexist institutions, such as medicine (Tuana, 2006, p. 2). In The Speculum of Ignorance (2006), Tuana illuminates the importance and value of employing ignorance as an epistemology for social inquiry, particularly within feminism; likening an epistemology of ignorance to a literal speculum, opening up orifices which had previously been locked away. Whilst ignorance might typically be perceived as just a ‘gap in knowledge’, Tuana states this ‘condition of not knowing’ is just not that simple (2006, p. 3). If we are to truly understand knowledge and the ways it is produced, we must first begin to understand lack of knowledges, examining how and why these deficiencies are assembled.

By employing an ignorance epistemology, this paper examines the varying types of ignorance which present within reproductive studies. Building on the framework provided by Tuana (2006), this research seeks out the ignorance that persists within contraception, exploring the distribution and practice of contraceptive knowledges, and the ways in which this can be identified among healthcare professionals and contraceptive users alike. Drawing on empirical data, this paper identifies how contraceptive ignorance can emerge via a wide range of varying channels, and the impact this can have on women in the UK. Self-experimentation is examined as an outlet for contraceptive ignorance, encouraging contraceptive users to embody a multitude of different technologies in an attempt to gain some form of bodily autonomy. This paper thus contributes to an understanding of the ways medical contraceptive ignorance impacts women’s contraceptive knowledges and how they choose to incorporate this into their practices.

Kate Naylor | University of Chester, UK There is No Blueprint for ‘Doing’ Family: Reimagining Surrogacy

There is a dominant cultural ‘pregnancy script’ in the global North that prioritises white, ablebodied, financially stable and heterosexual pregnant bodies, and dictates how to ‘do’ pregnancy correctly. I theorise an alternative to this: a ‘feminist pregnancy script’ that encourages individual pregnancy journeys. Through the lens of Standpoint Feminism, the ‘feminist pregnancy script’ ‘empowers oppressed groups’. It is a ‘social justice movement’ that challenges assumptions about the pregnant body. Surrogacy, too, challenges these assumptions. There are outcries from anti-surrogacy groups regarding family ‘artificiality’. ‘Stop Surrogacy Now’, a right-wing anti-surrogacy group sees surrogacy as ‘exploitative’, understanding that ‘the biological link between mother and child is undeniably intimate, and when severed has lasting repercussions felt by both’.

In reality, as stated by Sophie Lewis, to strive to achieve the ideal nuclear family can be more damaging than not attaining it and the overall outcome of surrogacy can be just as ‘good (or bad)’ for family formation as the idealised nuclear family. The research of Walker and van Zyl is at the centre of this paper. Their work, Toward A Professional Model of Surrogate Motherhood provides a roadmap for successful surrogacy. For there to be a new and inclusive model of surrogacy, social attitudes must change. This paper pioneers the ‘feminist pregnancy script’ to argue how social media can facilitate the necessary social change. Analysing real surrogacy experiences documented through the platform of Instagram underlines how ‘digital storytelling’ will assist the deconstruction of the dominant pregnancy script. It is time to accept surrogacy as a both viable way of being pregnant and becoming a parent.

Elina Nilsson, Uppsala University, Sweden “Was it a merit or was it a sin?” Outcomes for surrogate mothers in Thailand

In the discussions on transnational commercial surrogacy, the ‘life-changing’ sum of money offered to surrogates in the Global South is often highlighted, not least by surrogacy agencies and intended parents. Acting as a surrogate mother is framed as a transformational economic opportunity to earn money otherwise impossible to attain. For this money, the woman would be able to improve the life situation of herself and her family by building a house, educating her children or starting up a small business (Pande 2014, Rudrappa 2015). However, little is known about the actual lived experiences of surrogate mothers post-pregnancy and how the surrogacy arrangement has affected their lives.

Based on in-depth interviews with former surrogates in Thailand, this paper explores the more long-term outcomes for women enrolled in the transnational surrogacy industry. Their experiences were diverse and the money earned had an uneven and varied economic and social impact on their lives, households and family situation. On the one hand, it had generated temporal improvements and material accomplishments that enabled them to live up to moral and familial obligations. On the other hand, some found that the surrogacy experience had had a negative impact on their financial and social lives, expressing disappointment and regret and the money being “not that much”. Despite the illegal status commercial surrogacy has in Thailand, many of the women either repeated the process or acted as low-level agents to recruit new surrogate mothers. Thus, they continued to rely on their own or other women’s reproductive labour and ‘bioavailability’ (Cohen 2005).

Placing the accounts of the women at the center of the analysis and understanding them in both a global as well as local moral context, allows for a more complex understanding of the outcomes of commercial surrogacy in terms of benefits, risks, and longterm effects.

Stephen O’Kane, Independent Scholar, Care and the Community

A focus on reproduction and care politics quite naturally raises the question of local community action, and citizens’ participation therein, as an alternative way of organising care work. This may be distinguished from devolution in the sense of transferring central government functions to a local level (in the UK social care is locally funded anyway) if the community action can be organised in a ‘bottom up’ way.

However, I argue that from a political perspective reliance on local communities for care is problematic, despite people being usually found readier to take an interest in public issues on a local level and dissatisfaction with state welfare systems as ‘top down’ and stifling agency even before many were curtailed. Traditional small communities are typically much more conservative on family and care issues than urban or suburban counterparts, whilst in modern conditions many communities are transient. In addition, there is still the risk of shunting off spending from central government, as with ‘Care in the Community’ on mental health in the 1980s.

Those problems need to be addressed if we are to take the advice of Monbiot to rely on local communities rather than the state where possible and provide coverage for those who cannot afford market rates for care. Moreover, the issue of revaluing care work arises no matter how it is organised. Just because he does not wish people to be defined by pay and employment, Monbiot had placed heavy emphasis on volunteering. But the very assumption that much care will be voluntary can obstruct revaluation or lead to reliance on an honours system often associated with careerists and celebrities.

Penny Paralika, University of Crete, Greece Disintegration and commodification of the female body: the threats of uterus transplantation from living donors

Uterine transplant offers a solution for females with uterine factor infertility and males or trans individuals wishing to gestate a child. The donor of the uterus can be either deceased or living, since the uterus is considered a non-vital organ and it can be donated. The main ethical dilemma surrounding living uterus donation seems to revolve around the issue of subjecting a healthy person to harm for the benefit of another. The principle of autonomy supports a woman’s right to donate if she finds that the benefits outweigh the risks. Although, there is another issue, regarding the commodification of the female body, which is threatening the welfare of females, especially the less privileged ones.

Just like surrogacy, uterus transplants privilege biological and genetic motherhood through the use of other women’s bodies. Also, the law regarding procedures like uterine transplant fail to protect vulnerable women from using their bodies as a financial resource. Instead, like surrogacy, the procedure involves commodification of the female reproductive organs, which turn into products available for sale. Another disturbing fact, is that uterine transplant procedures are not meant to be permanent. Even if the transplant is successful, taking anti-rejection drugs over the long term for a nonlife-threatening condition is not advised. So, patients must have an hysterectomy after one gestation and childbirth, meaning that a female “donates” her womb to another person, only for it to be discarded after use like an one-use product.

In my presentation I will emphasize the threats coming from uterine transplantation, resulting in life-threatening objectification and commodification of the female body. The idea of gestating one’s own baby has unfortunately been romanticized by society as the only “real” route to motherhood (or parenthood if we refer to a non-binary pregnant person). I will argue that one’s desire to experience pregnancy cannot justify the objectification of another person to this extent.

Fauve Peirelinck, We all want babies, right? RIGHT?!

In ‘Of Women Born’, Adrienne Rich states “… it was economically necessary that children be produced; the mothers … were a means to this end”. This quote raises questions as it opposes the current cultural version of motherhood which seduces us to believe in the naturalness of motherhood, promoting an evidence that all women want to be a mother. It is provocative to think that state and politics have anything to do with this. The fact that economic and political aspects underly this vision goes easily unnoticed.

In this presentation I would like to explore the ways in which politics are involved in motherhood and reproductive rights and how this sets boundaries for women: what is and is not possible in their reproductive life. Starting from my experience as a midwife, leaning in my formation as an anthropologist, I will discuss the problematic aspect of the absence of a political-sociological formation of health practicioners. I will discuss why it is necessary for them to include this in their clinical formation. It can provide other ways to think about reproduction, the current health-care system and practices of midwifery. With this in mind we can interrogate the neutrality of the medical care provided to women and start to ask questions about the possibility of autonomy and choice. The increasing surveillance of women’s bodies as reproductive sites within a tendency toward conservativism in liberal democracies makes the exploration of this theme urgent and necessary.

Paul Reynolds, Independent Scholar, Social Reproduction Theory: Of Panacea. Paradigms and Position

Over the last decade, social reproduction theory has become a central means by which the radical left have found conceptual as well as political common ground. Its exponents speak to a theoretical framing by which exclusivity between identity and materialist politics are reconciled, recognising the plural and plastic nature of oppression, exploitation and alienation through pathology, prejudice, violence and discrimination. It promises the alignment of Marxist, Feminist, anti-racist/Black and other radical identity positions that escapes tensions about final determinations and the ordering of counter-hegemonic political strategies. It takes in intersectional critiques and extends analysis of the Political – the public sphere in which conflict around labour and productive relations and cultural, political and social organisation and inequality is located – and the private – the realm of reproduction, care and personal interrelationships. It is easy to see how the proponents of social reproduction – Bhattacharya, Ferguson, Jaffe, Arruzza, Vogel, McNally amongst others – emphasise its value.

In this paper, I want to take a reflective look at social reproduction theory with a view to understanding both what it adds to radical rejections of capitalist patriarchal, racist, imperialist, heterosexist and ableist (and that is not exhaustive) politics and ideology, and where it has limitations. The critique I offer focuses on three conceptual areas: the dangers of inclusive panacea in the context of the event (Badiou) and the ‘working through’ of strategies for change and protests against forms of oppression.; the recognition of social reproduction as a paradigm rather than a theory and how that conceptual distinction plays out in politics; and how social reproduction develops as as a counter-hegemonic approach (Gramsci) for radical politics and ideas. Social reproduction offers significant grounds for a more inclusive, intersectional counterhegemonic politics. In taking a critical approach, the intention is to both strengthen its theoretical and political approach that social reproduction suggests, and to recognise limitations, tensions and contradictions that represent challenges in practice.

Lucile Richard, Université Sorbonne Paris-Nord, France Surviving the unequal politics of reproduction, prefiguring livability for all. Networks of care, vulnerability and resistance in Judith Butler’s Notes Towards a Performative Theory of Assembly.

In Notes Towards a Performative Theory of Assembly, Judith Butler theorizes a form of prefigurative politics that interweaves resistance to precarity and the creation of alternative networks of care. Building her case through an analysis of social movements fighting against precarity, she interprets the various forms of mutual aid that were put into place in order to ensure these mobilizations a durability, as enactments that a distinct, more horizontal and less state-centered organization of biological and social reproduction is possible. Attentive to the specific circumstances of the protest and the protesters, these assemblies uttered their right to survive and live fully, by constructing accessible and egalitarian structures of support and help, from soup kitchen to childcare, distribution of staples, group therapy, or free legal advice. She argues that, as such, they materialized the necessity of transforming performatively the redistribution of care work at a microscale, if we want to counter the mortiferous logic that ordains, at a macrolevel, the differential and unequal management of contemporary living conditions. For her, doing so would enable us both to be less dependable on institutions that do not value identically all lives, and to establish nets of interdependency, more attuned to the democratic values of autonomy and equality.

This contribution analyzes the way in which Judith Butler recrafts her gendered concept of performativity to think about the emancipatory potential of mobilizing our vulnerability in order to transform the current modes of reproducing life and livability. As such, this paper has two goals. First, it seeks to show that construing the redistribution of care work in an iterative manner is indeed decisive to reveal its emancipatory potential. It argues therefore that articulating a queer theory of vulnerability to care politics, is a fruitful assemblage to strategize about how to establish alternative modes of reproducing life, both materially and symbolically. Second, it aims to show that, however, her demonstration undertheorizes the possibility that these emancipatory networks of care could become the nexus of new forms of exclusion, discrimination and deadly assignation. Using Foucault’s concept of pastoral power to demonstrate the propensity of care to produce constraining norms of life and living, I assert that Judith Butler’s project fails to tackle the problematic tendency of norms (even good ones) to become either straight-jackets, or markers for domination.

Arianne Shahvisi, Brighton & Sussex Medical School, UK The Social Epistemology of Abortion

This paper explores the ethics and epistemology of pregnancy and abortion. I argue that the long-standing abortion debate relies upon an understanding of pregnancy and abortion that wrongs the pregnant person as a knower and as a moral agent.

First, I show that a hermeneutical injustice blocks our collective understanding of unwanted pregnancy, which is: (a) wrongly represented as resulting from women’s irresponsible actions.; (b) rarely recognised as unwanted labour; (c) rarely characterised as infection, disease, or disability. I challenge each of these misrepresentations, and argue that the failure of the standard discourse to accurately characterise unwanted pregnancy wrongs those who become pregnant.

Second, according to the law in England, Scotland, and Wales, an abortion is lawful only if two doctors deem the pregnancy to be a risk to the person’s mental or physical health. I demonstrate that this constitutes a form of testimonial injustice in which the moral credibility of doctors is inflated and that of pregnant people deflated. While I grant that abortion is morally fraught, I argue that doctors and legislators should defer to the moral views of the pregnant person in relation to abortion, especially given my contention that unwanted pregnancy is a form of unwanted labour and-or unwanted infection for which women cannot be held solely responsible.

Annika Spahn, University of Basel, Switzerland Uterus transplants: Medical technology, (re)producing gender stereotypes, queering kinship and feminist questions

In 2014 the first child was born whose mother had become pregnant due to a uterus transplant in Sweden. The development of uterus transplants gives hope to all those who wish to become pregnant but don’t possess a uterus (anymore) – for example, infertile cis women, trans women, intersex women, and many more. Interestingly, the uterus donors are often the mothers of the recipients giving rise to many questions around kinship, reproduction, and gender. On one hand, they allow people regardless of gender and body to become pregnant, crossing gender boundaries like almost nothing before – on the other hand, pregnancy, reproduction, and family rela tions are at risk of being re-essentialized, re-biologized and inscribed as the one purpose and wish of women – with enormous consequences, for example for transgender women. Looking at medical research papers on uterus transplants interesting questions arise: How is the development of uterus transplants tied to normative ideas about reproduction, genetic kinship, family, gender relations, sexuality, and bodily autonomy? How do researchers in this field imagine the donors, recipients, partners, and (future) children? I want to look at two fields in particular: Firstly, which (symbolic and materialistic) constructions of gender arise in the research of uterus transplants? For who is this research done and why? Who is thought of and who is seen as wanting to become pregnant at all? How are gender stereotypes playing into this research? And secondly, which utopias, demands, and hopes are connected with uterus transplants by feminist and queer activists? Which news norms arise and which norms are contested? This research is part of my dissertation on heteronormativity in sexual medicine. For this part, I am doing a discourse analysis of studies on uterus transplants.

Áine Sperrin, NUI Galway, Ireland, Fertility and Contraception services as enabling reproductive justice for disabled people in Ireland

The Re(al) Productive Justice project at NUI Galway is the first project to consider the reproductive rights of disabled people in Ireland. The project’s understanding of fertility and contraception includes the provision of information and education around fertility and contraception management, assistance to make decisions around fertility and contraception, the use of fertility services such as assisted human reproduction and any form of contraception.

This paper examines the discriminatory impact which laws and policies regulating fertility and contraception have had on the reproductive rights of disabled people in Ireland. Using the framework of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities , oral histories and key informants offer unique perspectives on this issue. Core considerations in this paper are the potential for disabled people to access information and support to make decisions and to have those decisions respected. The themes discussed in the paper include the barriers to accessible information, lack of support to make informed decisions, the administration of contraception or sterilistation without informed consent and discrimination in accessing assisted human reproductive services.

The current legal framework governing decision making in Ireland also serves to highlight the disproportionate effects of the system of wardship as Irish caselaw concerning decision making related to fertility treatments will be discussed. This paper will shift the lens of disabled people as being excluded from the provision of fertility and contraception services towards having agency over their own fertility and being rightsholders in this respect.

Dan Swain, Czech Academy of Sciences, Czech Republic What does it mean to politicise (social) reproduction?

The recent revival of interest in social reproduction in Marxist feminism sees socially reproductive labour as both essential to capitalism and in tension with it, suggesting that social reproduction can sometimes be undertaken in accordance with the needs of capital and the state, and sometimes against them and for ourselves.

Examples of the latter might be seen in the recent re-emergence of the language of mutual aid in the COVID-19 pandemic, in which mutual aid groups aimed to fill the gap left by the state’s failure to support vulnerable communities. However, in his recent study of disaster relief, Peer Illner warns that such campaigns can just as easily complement state strategies of reproduction and absolve it of responsibilities, vividly demonstrated by the US State Department’s glowing endorsement of Occupy Sandy’s hurricane relief efforts. Illner thus insists that it is not enough to perform social reproduction for ourselves, but politicise it.

This paper asks the question of how we might best understand this politicisation. While this includes placing demands on and struggling against capital and the state, it also suggests a particular attitude towards our own activity: Politicising social reproduction means understanding and representing some of our most intimate forms of life-making as both challenging the status quo and anticipating an alternative. This suggests the need to locate and maintain a revolutionary, or even utopian, horizon in the reproduction of life itself (something which Sophie Lewis identifies even in the biology of gestation). The paper considers this idea in dialogue with the concept of prefigurative politics, which shares the desire to see radical possibilities in present action. The comparison reveals important questions about the place of future alternatives, the role of political commitment, and the risks of consolation and co-optation in projects that seek to politicise reproduction.

Wojciech Ufel | SWPS University, Poland The Discrete Charm of the Compromise: Women Protests in Poland and the Conservative Reproduction of the Body Control

When on October 22nd the Polish Constitutional Tribunal ruled for a further restriction to abortion laws, it provoked arguably the most massive strikes against the government since the 1980 Solidarity movement. While the core of the protest was constructed of various prochoice activists and movements, the claim to unconditional legalization of abortion was not shared among all the members of the protest. In fact, the immediate effects of the strike showed a spike in the support of moderately conservative, pro-life parties, who are in favour of defending the so-called ‘compromise’ on abortion that prevailed in Poland for more than 25 years. For many attendants, women rights were a secondary issue that provoked them to voice their rage against the authoritarianisation of the government and the mismanagement of the pandemic.

In my paper, I will start the analysis with a brief history of the abortion laws in Poland and a general study of the relationship between the Polish state and the Catholic church. This analysis will be supplemented with the analysis populist structure of the October 2020 protests, basing on identification of different demands and the empty signifiers of the protests. Together these two perspectives will help understand why the pro-choice protests had generally conservative outcomes, but also ask about limitations to the short- and long-term radical left populist strategies.

Rodante van der Waal, Kaveri Mayra & Anna Horn, Utrecht University, Netherlands Obstetric Violence: The Potency and Politics of Naming a Problem

This paper aims to argue for the potency of calling out mistreatment and violence against people during childbirth “obstetric violence”, locating the potential of critique in recognizing the institutional nature of the problem.

Obstetric violence is a global phenomenon consisting of, but not limited to, neglect, manipulation, and unconsented interventions such as episiotomies and vaginal examinations during childbirth. In contrast with terms like “disrespect”, “abuse” or “mistreatment”, the term “obstetric violence” locates the violence in the practice of obstetrics, hence underscoring its institutionalized nature. This makes a critique of obstetrics as a modern, colonial, global, systemically racist and misogynous practice possible. Bringing the institutional nature of violence during childbirth to the fore, it can no longer be set apart from the broader problematic of systematic racism and reproductive injustice. Obstetric violence, then, should be not only understood as genderbased violence but also as racializing violence, hence as obstetric racism (Dana-Aín Davis 2019). Stressing the institutional nature of violence during childbirth makes it possible to study the problem from an abolitionist framework, aimed at the abolition of a world that reproduces institutions wherein violence is the norm for the care we receive while birthing our children. It puts the focus on the deconstruction of maternity care through abolition, hence fighting the problem fundamentally, instead of trying to solve it by attempting to make adjustments through strategies as stressing the importance of informed consent and refusal or shared decision making.

Abolitionist thinkers like Ruth Wilson Gilmore and Fred Moten can provide a deepening of our understanding of obstetric violence as institutional violence, changing the vision that we have for our way forwards. Instead of asking the obstetric institution to protect birthing people’s rights, we should refuse what the obstetric institution refuses us, i.e., to start refusing care that is violent and refuses to be humane and dignified, but demand more. While refusing, abolition always consists of simultaneously creating another practice, rebuilding another kind of institution, through care. Regarding the care for childbirth, various independent, indigenous, and Black midwifery and doula practices are already rebuilding their care Otherwise.

Sigrid Wallaert, Ghent University, Belgium Managing Women’s Anger: Emotional Labour as Care Work

The concept of emotional labour was first outlined by sociologist Arlie Hochschild in her 1983 book The Managed Heart. Hochschild defines it as labour which “requires one to induce or suppress feeling in order to sustain the outward countenance that produces the proper state of mind in others” (1983, p. 7): simply put, managing one’s own emotions in order to appease others. She uses the concrete case of flight attendants as her main example, but the concept has since been expanded to be much more inclusive.

One such expansion was made by Gemma Hartley (2018), who brings emotional labour into the realm of care work. Hartley examines the care work of keeping a household running smoothly, which all too often falls disproportionately on the shoulders of women. The fact that Hartley uses the term ‘emotional labour’, and not Hochschild’s private-sphere alternative of ‘emotion work’, goes to show that care work really is just that: work. However, one aspect of emotional labour deserves special attention. According to Mishra (2017), we are living through an age of anger, and a surge of recent books (Traister (2018), Chemaly (2018), Cooper (2018)) calls attention to women’s anger specifically. Anger works alongside power: those who have power get to express it, those who don’t have to listen. Bringing together this anger research with (feminist) research on emotional labour, I argue that both listening to others’ anger and suppressing one’s own anger to appease others are forms of emotional labour as care work. Using Kate Manne’s (2018) framework of misogynist society as following a pattern of giving and taking, it becomes strikingly clear that the emotional labour of managing anger plays by the same gendered rules.

Therefore, it is increasingly important to make a point of listening to marginalised or suppressed anger. And on the other side of the coin, expressing one’s own marginalised anger can be a revolutionary act.

Catherine Orian Weiss, RMIT University, Australia Sex work as care: an intellectual history “My longest stint as a care worker has been as a prostitute…”

In this quotation, US writer and artist Robin Hustle brings together the activities of care and prostitution/sex work, thus designating prostitution as a form of work similar to professions such as nursing, childcare and domestic work. While this combination may seem surprising to readers unfamiliar with contemporary debates in sex work, Hustle’s statement is in fact typical of a tendency that is becoming more and more prominent in research and activism in this area. This tendency, which I call “sex-work-as-care”, emerged in the early 2000s but appears to be rapidly growing in popularity.

In this presentation I will critically examine this tendency in light of its intellectual history. In the first part of the talk, I will characterise the tendency and sketch its history. In the second part, I will argue that its roots lie in two antecedent currents of feminist thought that have greatly influenced its development: firstly, the marxist feminist theory of social reproduction, and secondly research on the concept of “emotional labour” first proposed by Arlie Hochschild in 1983. Finally, I will critically analyse this approach. The aim of this intellectual history is to reveal some of the theoretical assumptions underlying the sex-work-as-care tendency and thus open them up for critical discussion. This process helps us to answer questions such as: what are the advantages and disadvantages of linking prostitution and care work in this manner? How does this sex-work-as-care tendency shape our ways of understanding and analysing the activities often undertaken by women? And finally, can this approach be improved on? In light of the contemporary reorganisation of biological reproduction, social reproduction and care under neoliberal, globalised capitalism, these questions are central to our ability to respond to these changing global conditions.

Peter West-Oram, Brighton & Sussex Medical School, UK Freedom of Conscience versus Reproductive Autonomy: Conscientious Objection in “Ideal” Circumstances

The debate surrounding the right to conscientious objection, and the extent of the entitlements it grants to right holders, has become progressively more heated and controversial. In part, this is due to the growing range of contexts in which the right is asserted or defended, and the corresponding growth in the range of persons making, and affected by, such claims. It is frequently argued that liberal states should permit conscientious objections in a wide range of circumstances for at least two core reasons; first, doing so respects the objector’s right to freedom of conscience, thus preserving their moral integrity. Second, failure to respect this right is argued to represent an unjustifiable imposition by the state on an important personal freedom.

In this paper I examine the extent to which a right to conscientious objection in the health care context is compatible with the commitments of political liberalism upon which the right is claimed to rest. I focus on conscientious objections to duties to participate in the provision of abortion and contraception, and argue that granting health care providers “conscience based exemptions” (CBEs) to duties to participate in the provision of such services causes harm to women, even under idealised, hypothetical conditions designed to preserve access to them. My goal in doing so is to show how, despite the importance of rights to freedom of conscience, the harms caused by the granting of CBEs in such circumstances mean that they are incompatible with the broader principles of political liberalism, in virtue of which they are purportedly justified. In doing so, I argue that significant harm is done to women by the expressive act inherent to the state’s endorsement of the claimed right to opt out of voluntarily acquired duties to provide such services.

Elena Zacharenko, Tampere University, Finland Neoliberal care policy: what type of care regime does the EU promote explicitly and implicitly?

Capitalism maintains a false dichotomy between (paid) productive and (unpaid) reproductive labour to absolve itself from care provision in the public sphere (Bakker, 2003). Late capitalist states adopt a familialistic policy approach (Brown, 2015), disinvesting from social welfare, forcing women into the paid workforce due to economic necessity and ‘externalizing care work onto families and communities while diminishing their capacity to perform it’ (Fraser, 2016).

Policy design at both the national and EU levels contributes to this state of affairs, as the refamiliarization of social reproduction in the EU (Kantola and Lombardo, 2017) has resulted in a ‘care deficit’ (Hochschild, 2000). Following the 2008 economic crisis, EU care polices have become have even further neoliberalised, as state provisions of public services in areas such as childcare, health and eldercare were cut, and there was a reduction of state support for carers (Cavaghan and O’Dwyer, 2018). ‘Global care chains’ (Hochschild, 2000), where care labour displaced from one country due to the migration of cheap, female, migrant care workers, must be replaced by the labour of even poorer or more disadvantaged women, exist also in the EU internal context. Indeed, the continued operation of the economic system in some Western EU member states depends on the availability of migrant carers from further East, whose presence is mediated by a specific intra-EU border regime built on simultaneously allowing free labour movement and excluding cross-border workers from certain social and labour rights entitlements (Uhde and Ezzedine, 2020).

The proposed paper analyses EU policies in the areas of social policy, gender equality and macroeconomic policies and their implications to explore how the EU constructs the concept of ‘care’ and who it deems responsible for carrying out the work of social reproduction, as well as the implications of these constructs on its policies. It will focus on the ignorance of the crisis of social reproduction and the class-blind nature of the EU’s social, economic, freedom of movement and gender equality policies and argue that these result in the (further) marketization of care and disproportionately impact women from lower socio-economic classes.

Polina Zelmanova, University of Warwick, UK, (De)centering Abortion in Never Rarely Sometimes Always and Saint Frances: tracking progress in recent practices of representing abortion in narrative cinema

In the international context of the rise of abortion bans and the increased difficulty of access to abortion, this paper investigates how two recent films, Never Rarely Sometimes Always (Eliza Hittman, 2020) and Saint Frances (Alex Thompson, 2019) open up a discourse on abortion which challenges existing, often harmful representations. Research examining the portrayal of abortion in film and television has shown that the experiences represented do not typically reflect the reality of abortion care (Weitz et al, 2007). This includes the inaccurate depiction of the procedure but also the decision-making process and the emotional and physical experiences of the characters.

This false portrayal results in the promotion of conservative values responsible for the upholding of hegemonic structures which refuse women agency over their own bodies, exemplified in the most common narrative where abortion results in the woman’s death (Sisson, Kimport, 2013). Although these representations are fictional, studies have demonstrated that film and media texts have the power to sway public opinion (Gerbner et al 1986), including public attitudes towards abortion (Latimer, 2009). Consequently, film has the social power to either confirm or challenge dominant opinions regarding abortion, including what the procedure entails, how it is accessed, who can have an abortion and what its effects are.

Through a close study of the two films, the paper reveals ways in which they create a more realistic and informed portrayal of abortion as both procedure and experience. In particular, the paper examines the films’ narrative structures, which decenter the abortion procedure to allow space for a wider discussion which includes issues around abortion laws, abortion access, and post-abortion care practice and experience.

Conference programme

Wednesday 15th September

09:00-09:15 – Welcome & Introduction

Session 1 – 09:15-11:00 Reproductive Technologies 1 Queering the Family? (Chair: Zoe Sutherland) 

Ji-Young Lee (University of Copenhagen, Denmark): “Assisted reproduction as a case of social enhancement”

Annika Spahn (University of Basel, Switzerland): “Uterus Transplants: Medical technology, (re)producing gender stereotypes, queering kinship and feminist questions”

Megan Borrman (Independent Scholar): “Dildos, Bulldaggers and Bioengineered Organs: A Guide to Preciado’s Countersexuality”

Session 2 – 11:15-12:45 Reproductive Technologies 2 Egg Freezing and Reproductive Futurity (Chair: Vicky Margree)

Eléonore Crunchant (University of Geneva, Switzerland): “Egg freezing and infertility anticipation in the context of biologisation and biomedicalisation”

Claire Grino ((University of Geneva, Switzerland): “From the prohibition of a biomedical practice to its eventual availability for free: the peculiar history of egg freezing for anticipated infertility (EFA) in France”

Maria Fannin, (University of Bristol, UK): “Speculative Reproduction” LUNCH (45 MINS)

Session 3 – 13:30-15:00 Reproductive Justice 1: Conceptualising Reproductive Justice (Chair: Elżbieta Korolczuk)

Margaret McLaren and Sanjula Rajat (Rollins College, USA): “Expanding the Reproductive Justice Framework through Postcolonial Perspectives”

Fran Amery (University of Bath, UK): “Menstrual injustice and reproductive justice”

Áine Sperrin (NUI Galway, Ireland): “Fertility and Contraception services as enabling reproductive justice for disabled people in Ireland”

Emma Milne (Durham University, UK) and Karen Brennan (University of Essex, UK): “The Infanticide Act as a Means Readdress Harms? Women Who Kill their Infants and Reproductive Justice”

Session 4 – 15:15-16:45 Abortion 1: Epistemologies, Rights, Laws (Chair: Giulia Cavaliere)

Arianne Shavisi (Brighton and Sussex Medical School, UK): “The Social Epistemology of Abortion”

Lynsey Mitchell (Abertay University, UK): “Law’s Patriarchy: The Narrative War for Reproductive Rights”

Agnieszka Bień-Kacała (Nicolaus Copernicus University in Torun, Poland) and Timea Drinóczi (University of Pecs, Hungary): “Abortion law and courts in illiberal constitutionalism: Spotlight on Poland and Hungary”

Session 5 – 17:00-18:15 Keynote Sophie Lewis: “Disloyal Children of Shulamith Firestone: Updating Gestational Utopianism for the Twenty-First Century” (Chair: Zoe Sutherland)

Thursday 16th September

Session 6 – 09:00-10:30 (PARALLEL SESSION)

Panel A: Reproductive Technologies 3: Epistemology and Ethics (Chair: Peter West-Oram)

Adele Moore (University of Liverpool, UK): “Ignorance, it’s anything but bliss: how is an epistemology of ignorance useful in the study of reproduction?”

Penny Paralika (University of Crete, Greece): “Disintegration and the commodification of the female body: the threats of uterus transplantation from living donors”

Panel B: Abortion 2: Social Movements, Protest, Challenge: The Case of Poland (Chair: Sydney Calkin)

Barbara Dynda (University of Warsaw, Poland): “Restricting Abortion Law in Poland after 1989: The Feminist Grassroots Politics during the Crisis of Reproductive Rights”

Wojciech Ufel (SWPS University, Poland): “The Discrete Charm of the Compromise: Women Protests in Poland and the Conservative Reproduction of the Body Control”

Julia Kapelańska-Pręgowska (Nicolaus Copernicus University, Poland): “The scales of the European Court of Human Rights: Abortion restriction in Poland, the European consensus, and the State’s margin of appreciation”

Session 7 – 10:45-12:00 Surrogacy 1: Conceptualising Commercial Surrogacy (Chair: Hannah Vogele)

Sophie Jossi-Silverstein (Freie Universität Berlin, Germany): “The (im)possibility of reproducing property: gestational surrogacy and its contradictions”

Kate Naylor (University of Chester, UK): “There is No Blueprint for ‘Doing’ Family: Reimagining Surrogacy”

Session 8 – 13:00-14:15 Keynote Lynne Segal: “The Ubiquitous Undervaluing of Care” (Chair: Vicky Margree)

Session 9 – 14:30-16:00 Social Reproduction 1: Theorisation and Critique (Chair: Wojciech Ufel)

Paul Reynolds (Independent Scholar): “Social Reproduction Theory: Of Panacea, Paradigms, and Position”

Dan Swain (Czech Academy of Sciences, Czech Republic): “What does it mean to politicise (social) reproduction?”

Lucile Richard (Sorbonne University Paris Nord, France): “Surviving the Unequal Politics of reproduction: prefiguring livability for all. Networks of care, vulnerability and resistance in Judith Butler’s Notes Towards a Performative Theory of Assembly

Friday 17th September

Session 10 – 09:15-10:45 (PARALLEL SESSION)

Panel A: Social Reproduction 2: Care Work, Social Movements, Resistance (Chair: Paul Reynolds)

Sigrid Wallaert (Ghent University, Belgium): “Managing Women’s Anger: Emotional Labour as Care Work”

Catherine Weiss (RMIT University, Australia): “Sex work as care and social reproduction theory”

Elena Zacharenko (Tampere University, Finland): “Neoliberal care policy: what type of care regime does the EU promote explicitly and implicitly”

Panel B: Abortion 3: Pills, Networks, Access (Chair: Fran Amery)

Olivia Engle (Birkbeck College, University of London, UK): “Abortion within, across and beyond borders: theorising abortion travel in the 21st century”

Sydney Calkin (Queen Mary University of London, UK): “‘Follow the Thing’: Abortion Pills”

Cordelia Freeman and Sandra Rodriguez (University of Exeter, UK): “Chemical Geographies of Misoprostal: Feminist Networks and Abortion Technologies in Latin America”

Session 11 – 11:00-12:30 (PARALLEL SESSION)

Panel A: Surrogacy 2: Case Studies (Chair: Julia Kapelańska-Pręgowska)

Elzbieta Korolczuk (Sodertorn University and University of Warsaw): “Reproductive (in)justice in public debates and legal regulations concerning surrogacy in Poland”

Elina Nilsson (Uppsala University, Sweden): “‘Was it a merit or was it a sin?’: Outcomes for surrogate mothers in Thailand”

Michael Liu Yan (Independent Scholar, China): “China’s family planning and queer surrogacy”

Panel B: Abortion 4: The Politics of Representation (Chair:)

Giulia Cavaliere (Lancaster University Medical School, UK): “Abortion is not gender neutral: Rethinking ectogestation and abortion”

Camila Cavalcante (Independent Artist / Scholar): “Strategies in feminist photography and the fight for abortion rights: Olivia Harris, Emma Campbell, and Laia Abril”

Polina Zelmanova (University of Warwick, UK): “(De)centering Abortion in Never Rarely Sometimes Always and Saint Frances: tracking progress in recent practices of representing abortion in narrative cinema”

Session 12 – 13:15-14:45 Making Humans 1: Biological Procreation and its Discontents? (Chair: Rodante Van Der Waal)

Katja Čičigoj (Paderborn University, Germany): “From biological asymmetries to social relations of oppression: casuality without determinism”

Rachelle Chadwick (University of Pretoria): “Beyond ‘Reproduction’? Gestationality as Feminist Figuration” Fauve Peirelinck: “We all want babies, right? RIGHT?!”

Session 13 – 15:00-16:30 Making Humans 2: Maternity Care and Obstetric Violence (Chair: Katja Čičigoj)

Georgia Clancy (University of Warwick, UK): “Neoliberalism and the Better Births Maternity Care Policy”

Peter West-Oram (Brighton and Sussex Medical School, UK): “Freedom of Conscience vers Reproductive Autonomy: Conscientious Objection in ‘Ideal’ Circumstances”

Rodante Van der Waal, Kaveri Mayra and Anna Horn (Utrecht University, Netherlands): “Obstetric Violence: The Potency and Politics of Naming a Problem”

16.30-16:45 Concluding Remarks

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