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Motherhood and Maternity

Motherhood And Development Discourses

Some of the public debates, campaigning, and policy-making that surround women's relationships to their bodies at the turn of the twenty-first century make evident the extent to which affirmations of motherhood constrain discursive frameworks of justice for women. The American feminist Patricia McFadden identifies this in relation to dominant trends within research, public debate, and policy-making around HIV/AIDS, while Jessica Horn discusses how the patriarchal emphasis on reproductive health anchors perceptions of women's sexual health firmly in stereotypical gender roles and identities (Narayan).

Along another axis, projects like the Population Council's "Save the Mothers Initiative" places attention on motherhood in development discourses. The Safe Motherhood Conference (Nairobi, 1987) of the International Federation of Gynecology and Obstetrics (FIGO) noted with alarm that almost half a million women die each year because of complications related to pregnancy and childbirth. FIGO sought global support, stressing that because 99 percent of maternal deaths occur in the developing countries and among women in the most deprived sections of the population, it was a socially unjustifiable phenomenon.

At the beginning of the twenty-first century, United Nations agencies and the World Bank supported several country projects in Asia, Africa, and Latin America to evolve cost-effective and sustainable ways to reduce maternal mortality and morbidity. Institutions like the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine have maternal programs for conducting research and disseminating information on policy issues related to maternal and child health.

Critics of such population policies, however, argue that mass distribution of hormonal medicines used for population control in developing countries has serious implications for the health of millions of women who are unaware of the long-term impact of these drugs. Feminists also point out that notions of "reproduction" and "reproductive rights" have many possible interpretations, with varying degrees of social impact on gender and family. In the 1960s, the core issues around reproductive rights involved the access to family planning and to information on birth control; in the abortion debates, the right to privacy seems to encompass the right to decide whether to conceive and to carry a fetus to term. Since the 1990s and the struggle against AIDS, reproductive health has won new relevance.

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Science EncyclopediaScience & Philosophy: Molecular distillation to My station and its duties:Motherhood and Maternity - History, Religion, And Myth, Feminist Critiques, Motherhood And Development Discourses, Contentious Debates