The Business of Birth

This week's review examines maternity care in the U.S., unpacking the difference between "fetus-centered and woman-centered reproductive health regimes."

The Business of Birth: Malpractice and Maternity Care in the United States

Roth, Louise Marie. New York University, 2021
194p bibl index, 9781975504021 $89.95, 9336p bibl index, 9781479812257 $99.00, 9781479877089 $35.00, 9781479809097

The Business of Birth: Malpractice and Maternity Care in the United States book cover. Purple background with red and black text. 4 images of a woman's stomach growing underneath the title.

The subtitle of this book might suggest a narrow focus on the intricacies of US tort law and the details of malpractice suits stemming from unfortunate outcomes for pregnant women and newborns. However, in reality, the book has a much broader scope. The author paints a fascinating (albeit often distressing) picture of the complex interactions among medical practitioners, hospital administrators, insurance providers, malpractice attorneys, and state legislators. Often the result is a toxic mix of circumstances leading to huge numbers of unnecessary Caesarian section surgeries and chemically induced deliveries involving coercion of pregnant women (especially poor, rural, and minority women) and outrageously expensive pregnancy care, not to mention the highest rates of maternal and infant mortality in the developed world. Roth (Univ. of Arizona) supplements her analyses of changes in law codes and standards of care by quoting from transcribed interviews conducted with obstetricians, nurse-midwives, lawyers, and insurance adjusters. She distinguishes between fetus-centered and woman-centered reproductive health regimes and persuasively argues that pregnant women and their offspring are better served in states that protect abortion rights “and prioritize women’s rights over fetal life” (p. 10). The book will interest students and faculty in gender studies, public health, and law as well as activists in reproductive justice movements.

Summing Up: Highly recommended. Upper-division undergraduates. Graduate students, faculty, and professionals.
Reviewer: A. H. Koblitz, emerita, Arizona State University
Interdisciplinary Subjects: Women’s & Gender Studies
Subject: Science & Technology – Health Sciences
Choice Issue: May 2022

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