Reproductive Autonomy and Reproductive Technology

Techne 16 (1):31-45 (2012)
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This paper presents a relational account of autonomy showing that a technological imperative impedes autonomy through undermining women’s capacity to resist use of technology in the context of labor and birth. A technological imperative encourages dependence on technology for reassurance whenever possible through creating a (i) separation of maternal and fetal interests; and (ii) perceived need to use technology whenever possible. In response I offer an account of how women might promote autonomy through cultivating self-trust and self-confidence. Autonomy is not simply a matter of choosing freely and acting on our choices, it is also a matter of possessing the ability to resist social contexts undermining choice and action. An important implication of this view is that respecting autonomy requires more than simply respecting persons’ ability to make and act on choices. Respecting patient autonomy requires a recognition of patients’ need to resist factors impeding autonomy and support for that resistance.



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