Beggars and Choosers: How the Politics of Choice Shapes Adoption, Abortion, and Welfare in the United States
is a thorough feminist history of public policy on abortion since Roe v. Wade
, as well as a reconsideration of recent political strategy. Rickie Solinger's third book on reproductive rights hinges on a crucial semantic shift in the 1970s from "abortion rights" to the softer, less direct "choice" and "pro-choice," itself an attempt to shake off the awkward "pro-abortion" tag. While "rights" are undeniable, Solinger asserts, "choice" is a market-driven concept. "Historical distinctions between women of color and white women, between poor and middle-class women, have been reproduced and institutionalized in the "era of choice," she continues, "in part by defining some groups of women as good choice makers, some as bad."
Solinger also advances a troubling economic thesis about adoption, defined roughly as "the transfer of babies from women of one social classification to women in a higher social classification or group." Bracing and well-researched, Solinger's arguments should be considered by anyone working for women's and children's rights. --Regina Marler
From Publishers Weekly
Feminists need a paradigm shift, argues Solinger (Wake Up Little Susie;, The Abortionist), away from the post-Roe v. Wade concept of "choice" and back to the '60s concept of "rights," based on the approach of the civil rights movement, which argued that all citizens were entitled to vote, for instance, regardless of class status. "Choice" evokes a marketplace model of consumer freedom, she explains, while rights are privileges to which one is justly and irrevocably entitled as a human being. The shift from the language of rights to that of choice was deliberate, aimed at reducing the federal welfare tab and increasing the pool of adoptable children, which began to diminish after the early 1970s, Solinger argues. Once the pill and legal abortion were available, poor women could be considered "bad choice-makers" if they kept having babies they couldn't afford hardly the government's responsibility. (Never mind, Solinger observes, that many poor women can't afford either option and might want children, just as middle-class women do.) Is this progress? No, Solinger writes: "women with inadequate resources... must... have the right to determine for themselves whether or not to be mothers." With its crisp, jargon-free prose and copious footnotes, Solinger's reexamination of those twin bogeys the Back Alley Butcher and the Welfare Queen is a provocative read for any modern feminist.
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