of Policy Formation:
The Case of Fetal Abuse
JEAN REITH SCHROEDEL, & PAUL PERETZ
DESPITE ALMOST TWO DECADES of feminist scholarship, there has been relatively little theoretical analysis of the ways that gender relations are reproduced and reinforced through public policies. Numerous scholars ( Boals 1975; Carroll 1979; Silverberg 1990) have commented on the lack of theoretical innovation within the field. Helene Silverberg contends that political science as a discipline has a limited understanding of the concept "gender." By equating gender with sex roles, political scientists have limited the legitimate areas of research to only those that add gender as a predictor variable onto an already existing research agenda or look at women as a case study of some broader area of research.
Political scientists are just beginning to explore the ways that the social construction of gender affects governmental policies. Catharine MacKinnon's 1987 collection of essays on the law was one of the first attempts to use gender as an analytic category. Central to this approach is a study of the intersection between government policy and relations between the sexes. In other words, how do governmental policies reflect, reinforce, and possibly change the balance of power between men and women. MacKinnon showed how legal developments concerning rape, abortion, sexual harassment, and pornography reflect changes in the underlying balance of power between the sexes. In a similar vein, recent feminist critiques of the welfare state have shown how specific policies have reinforced existing social inequalities between men and women ( Abramovitz 1988; Gordon 1990; Nelson 1990).
In this chapter we seek to show how the underlying assumptions engendered by a patriarchal society have framed the debate over fetal abuse in a way that