Decentering Whiteness in Feminist Bioethics: Assisted Reproductive Technologies as an Illustrative Case

In Lisa Campo-Engelstein & Paul Burcher (eds.), Reproductive Ethics Ii: New Ideas and Innovations. Springer Verlag. pp. 99-112 (2018)
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Abstract

In 1999, Susan Wolf diagnosed what was missing in bioethics: “an analysis that places race, ethnicity, and gender at the center.” Since then, not enough progress has been made in “decentering” whiteness in bioethics. The use of assisted reproductive technologies in the United States, and the bioethical discussion surrounding it, provides a window into the problem. Recent surveys of ART usage show racial disparities in access to ART and treatment outcomes. A personal testimony about egg freezing suggests a perceptual blindness when white experience is taken to be the norm. Nevertheless, bioethics, including feminist bioethics, has largely framed ART within the parameters of “normative whiteness.” This paper will argue that feminist bioethics needs to put race at the center of analysis and will suggest pathways for doing so. Decentering whiteness requires a consideration of epistemic limits and privilege, a reevaluation of the goals of feminism, and an embrace of empathy in service of a more responsive and flexible worldview.

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