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Bridges, Khiara M. “Privacy Rights and Public Families.” Harvard Journal of Law & Gender 34 (2011): 113–74.


In this article, Khiara Bridges explores the ways in which government agencies, specifically hospitals and other healthcare providers trample on the privacy rights of poor, pregnant women who are reliant on Prenatal Care Assistance Program (PCAP). She builds on Martha Fineman’s writings that a private family becomes “public” in the absence of a husband/father.  Bridges extends this argument, noting that it is not merely the absence of a father figure that dissolves the right to privacy, but instead is the intent to receive government aid. Thus, her central argument is that rights are a function of class, and wealth is a condition for the possibility of privacy. The author uses both Griswold v. Connecticut and Eisenstadt v. Baird to build a premise for the right to privacy. In Griswold, the Court established a public sphere and a private sphere, where the family unit has a right to privacy. This ruling was extended to individuals in Eisenstadt. By using these two court cases as precedent, Bridges argues that pregnant women are stripped of their right to privacy, both in regard to the family as an entity and in regard to the individual. She concludes her article by suggesting that the concept of rights be converted to “rights to” rather than “rights against.” This transformation in language places more of an affirmative duty on the state rather than simply granting protection from the state. This article is especially useful for legal scholars exploring the right to privacy as it pertains to pregnant women receiving government assistance. The author uses simple language and offers a logical argument. It assesses the right to privacy argument that is often cited by reproductive rights advocates. In addition, it places reproductive rights and reproductive health in a context that demonstrates how poor women and women of color may face discrimination in accessing quality healthcare.


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Government regulation   Legal case   Health care   Pregnancy