Policing the Womb: Invisible Women and the Criminalization of Motherhood
(Cambridge University Press, 2020) a brilliant but shocking account of the criminalization of all aspects of reproduction, pregnancy, abortion, birth, and motherhood in the United States. In her extensively researched monograph, Michele Goodwin
recounts the horrific contemporary situation, which includes, for example, mothers giving birth shackled in leg irons, in solitary confinement, even in prison toilets, and in some states, women being coerced by the State into sterilization, in exchange for reduced sentences. She contextualises the modern day situation in America’s history of slavery and oppression, and also in relation to its place in the world. Goodwin shows how prosecutors abuse laws, and medical professionals are complicit in a system that disproportionally impacts the poor and women of color. However, Goodwin warns that these women are just the canaries in the coalmine. In the context of both the Black Lives Matter movement, and in the lead up to the 2020 Presidential election, her book could not be more timely; Not only is the United States the deadliest country in the developed world for pregnant women, but the severe lack of protections for reproductive rights and motherhood is compounding racial and indigent disparities.
Jane Richards is a doctoral candidate in Human Rights Law at the University of Hong Kong. Her research interests include disability, equality, criminal law and civil disobedience. You can find her on twitter @JaneRichardsHK where she avidly follows the Hong Kong’s protests and its politics.