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The ‘Midwifery Question’ in Québec: New Problematics of Birth, Body, Self

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Abstract

Scholarship on midwifery in the North American context has tended to evaluate the recent legalization of the professional practice of midwifery across the United States and Canada as evidence of the success of women's claims to broader reproductive rights concerning pregnancy and birth. This article, however, approaches the efforts to legalize midwifery in North America through the question of claims to reproductive autonomy, arguing that midwifery's legalization is one effect of the entrance into modern scientific practice and state health policy of a new political subject: one whose emotional satisfaction is the target of reproductive health-care policy. As such, the ‘new’ midwifery in Québec encourages pregnant and birthing women to invest intimately in the project of staking claims for reproductive self-determination. Counter to claims that the ideal citizen of contemporary liberal regimes is ‘unattached and unbiased’, midwifery compels women to invest ‘deep down’ in claims to reproductive self-determination. An examination of policy and activist discourses circulating during the time leading up to the period of experimentation (1993–1998) and eventually to the legalization (1999) of midwifery in Québec provides a useful lens onto broader transformations in the liberal governance of pregnancy and birth.

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Notes

  1. 1 All translations from French are the author's own.

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Acknowledgements

Thanks to Carlo Bonura, Wendy Larner and Adam Tickell for their comments, and to the members of the Political Economy Working Group at the University of Bristol for their lively discussion of an early draft.

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Fannin, M. The ‘Midwifery Question’ in Québec: New Problematics of Birth, Body, Self. BioSocieties 2, 171–191 (2007). https://doi.org/10.1017/S174585520700525X

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