Academic journal article American Studies

SEIZING THE MEANS OF REPRODUCTION: Entanglements of Feminism, Health, and Technoscience

Academic journal article American Studies

SEIZING THE MEANS OF REPRODUCTION: Entanglements of Feminism, Health, and Technoscience

Article excerpt

SEIZING THE MEANS OF REPRODUCTION: Entanglements of Feminism, Health, and Technoscience. By Michelle Murphy. Durham, NC: Duke University Press. 2012.

As the old adage goes, "never judge a book by its cover." However, as an historian of abortion and its technologies, I was immediately intrigued by the cover of Michelle Murphy's Seizing the Means of Reproduction: Entanglements of Feminism, Health, and Technoscience for two reasons: its clever, patterned use of the Del-Em apparatus, a homemade menstrual extractor (and for many American women, a subversive manual suction pregnancy terminator during the period of abortion criminality) that was a byproduct of the self-help/women's health movement of the 1960s and 1970s; and, the book's title, which incorporates one of the main goals of this movement- "seizing the means of the reproduction"-from patriarchal hands, just as Marx had called on the proletarian class to seize the "means of production." The work's title also serves as a nod to a classic in abortion studies: Pauline Bart's 1987 article in Qualitative Sociology, "Seizing the Means of Reproduction: An Illegal Feminist Abortion Collective-How and Why it Worked," which traces the development of Jane, the famous grassroots, feminist, Chicago abortion service that operated during the height of the women's health movement.

If one could mine all this from the cover, the work itself, I reasoned, would yield volumes. My expectations for Murphy's text were therefore substantial, and I certainly was not disappointed. Continuing where works such as Sheryl Burt Ruzek's The Women's Health Movement: Feminist Alternatives to Medical Control (1979) and Sandra Morgen's Into Our Own Hands: The Women's Health Movement in the United States, 1969-1990 (2002) end, Seizing the Means of Reproduction reexamines the women's health movement of the 1970s and 80s through a feminist technoscience framework made possible by the epistemological shifts that have occurred in technology studies over the past decade. …

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