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Roberts, Dorothy E. “Privatization and Punishment in the New Age of Reprogenetics.” Emory Law Journal 54 (2005): 1–19.


Roberts posits that the punishment of black women’s childbearing and the promotion of white women’s reproduction are related to an avoidance of public responsibility for social inequities.  She writes that both population control and assisted reproductive technologies place reproductive duties solely on the shoulders of women and “shift responsibility for improving social conditions away form the state.” (1344) Roberts blames the shift away from government support for public health to the privatization of families on globalization and the adoption of neoliberal values that place more emphasis on individual “ownership” and the privatization of programs traditionally provided by the government. Essentially, as a result of this neoliberal thinking, the government has effectively “privatized” social problems. Additionally, Roberts criticizes “reprogenetics,” a set of “cutting edge procedures that enable selection of embryos for their genetic traits” (1353) as a way to pressure women and to place responsibility for ending health disparities on the individual. While proponents of reprogenetics believe that the technology is furthering a woman’s reproductive choices, in actuality, it may be limiting choices by pressuring women and holding them responsible for eradicating societal ills. Furthermore, Roberts relays how the dual phenomena of privatization and punishment of “place duties on women that help to privatize remedies for illness and social inequities.” (1360) This article is an essential read for those interested at examining the relationship between women and the state. Roberts steers the reader past the racial divide toward placing responsibility back on the government to provide support where neoliberal values have stripped it.


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Race/ethnicity: African American/Black   Assisted reproductive technology   Race/ethnicity: European American/white   Population control