Meat is a multi-billion-dollar industry that relies on people performing risky physical work inside meat-processing facilities over long shifts in close proximity. These workers are socially disempowered, and many are members of groups beset by historic and ongoing structural discrimination. The combination of working conditions and worker characteristics facilitate the spread of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. Workers have been expected to put their health and lives at risk during the pandemic because of government and industry pressures to keep (...) this “essential industry” producing. Numerous interventions can significantly reduce the risks to workers and their communities; however, the industry’s implementation has been sporadic and inconsistent. With a focus on the U.S. context, this paper offers an ethical framework for infection prevention and control recommendations grounded in public health values of health and safety, interdependence and solidarity, and health equity and justice, with particular attention to considerations of reciprocity, equitable burden sharing, harm reduction, and health promotion. Meat-processing workers are owed an approach that protects their health relative to the risks of harms to them, their families, and their communities. Sacrifices from businesses benefitting financially from essential industry status are ethically warranted and should acknowledge the risks assumed by workers in the context of existing structural inequities. (shrink)
Jesudason and Weitz's article examines two public policy debates in California, where both sides of the debate used similar language that had the potential to be detrimental to women. Specifically, they show how anti-abortion crusaders in California used similar language to describe why women's rights should be curtailed as pro-choice advocates use when fighting for more choice and privacy for women's reproductive decisions. This commentary builds upon their article by demonstrating the harm that such co-opting causes to women's rights using (...) the example of sex selective abortion. By examining the legislative history of state and national bills to ban sex-selective abortion, this commentary demonstrates how the anti-abortion lobby has adopted the language of pro-choice advocates quite effectively. Although the framing of this issue as being “woman-protective” is strategic and insincere, such political framing is powerful, as Jesudason and Weitz have noted. Anti-abortion activists have convinced lawmakers in many states that sex-selective abortion is a dire issue in their state and that they must restrict it in order to protect women. In fact, there is no evidence that sex selective abortion is a problem in the United States, yet these frames have been very effective in weakening women's privacy rights. Whenever woman-protective framings are invoked for self-serving purposes, women's rights advocates must work hard to uncover the truth behind these discourses to prevent successful legislative efforts that curtail women's reproductive freedom. (shrink)
Health justice is both a community-led movement for power building and transformational change and a community-oriented framework for health law scholarship. Health justice is distinguished by a distinctively social ethic of care that reframes the relationship between health care, public health, and the social determinants of health, and names subordination as the root cause of health inequities.
An inordinate number of low wage workers in essential industries are Black, Hispanic, or Latino, immigrants or refugees — groups beset by centuries of discrimination and burdened with disproportionate but preventable harms during the COVID-19 pandemic.
This essay argues that feminist legal theory offers an important, and underutilized, perspective to examine health law and policy. We use several theoretical frameworks developed by feminist legal theorists including relational autonomy, intersectionality, vulnerability theory, and the feminist critique of the public-private divide to demonstrate the utility of these theories to health law analysis. These frameworks provide insights relevant not only to issues that obviously relate to gender, but also to matters of choice, quality, and access that are less obviously (...) gender-related. We map three key areas of existing scholarship and future inquiry at the intersection of health law and feminist legal theory: patient choice and relational autonomy, patriarchy, power and patient safety, and access to health care and healthy living conditions at the public-private divide. Uniting these areas of inquiry is a nagging question central to the relationship between critical legal scholarship and pragmatic action to combat injustice: Can we use legal rights to achieve our aims even as we recognize them as tainted tools that have propped up oppressive social structures? A feminist agenda for health law and policy must grapple with this dilemma. (shrink)