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Making Babies, Making Families Hardcover – July 11, 2001
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From Publishers Weekly
In this impressive study of family law's uneasiness with custody rights, Shanley (Feminism, Marriage and the Law in Victorian England) explores how dominant notions of family (in which the primary partners are married, heterosexual and of the same race) have contributed to legal rulings on adoption and surrogacy. Shanley critiques our collective fantasy of adopted children as "free standing individuals with no relevant links to either their birth parents or the racial, ethnic, or religious groups [of] their birth parents," arguing that the common practice of joining children and parents who could be biologically related in effect "ratif[ies] a family based on biological ties as the desirable norm." More realistic, she argues, is to conceptualize "family" as something more fluid and complex: "a child may have more than two `parents': genetic parents (sperm and egg donors), biological parents, stepparents, adoptive parents." This inclusive perception allows adoptees "to construct a coherent story of origin" and also lets birth parents experience their full range of feelings for their offspring. Shanley's discussion of transracial adoptions and the controversial role of race in shaping custody rights is evenhanded and riveting, as is her critique of surrogacy-for-pay and the sale of genetic material. Readers may be surprised to find that the U.S. is the only Western country that doesn't restrict human ova sales, and that France doesn't pay sperm donors. This critically sophisticated yet readily accessible discussion of adoption, reproductive technology and parental responsibility represents a much-needed addition to the growing number of books on new forms of family in the 21st century.
Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.
Credit political science professor Shanley with a measured, nuanced contribution to the often polarized "family values" debate. Rejecting both tradition and individual choice as singular guiding principles, she insists "law and social policy [should] promote liberty and choice while at the same time advancing equality, recognizing and protecting family relationships, and providing care to those who need it." There are chapters on transracial and open adoptions, the rights of unwed fathers, surrogate motherhood, the "market" for sperm and eggs, and "how many parents can a child have?" Shanley concludes that a pluralistic vision of family must find its ethical grounding in a "cluster of values--liberty and equality, but also relationship and care." Only sound public policy and government action, she urges, can ensure that many kinds of families can experience all these values, rather than trading one off against another. Mary Carroll
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