Dr. Joyce Peterson publishes article "Baby M: American Feminists Respond to a Controversial Case"

Abstract

The Baby M case was a late 1980s legal case of a surrogate mother, Mary Beth Whitehead, who declined to relinquish her parental rights and grant custody of the baby to the father, William Stern. This article seeks first to discover what the feminist responses to the Baby M case were and why feminists disagreed in their analyses. It concludes that the decade of the 1980s found some feminists primarily responding to a series of threats to reproductive rights and the right to make personal decisions about bodily autonomy. At the same time, other feminists saw the need to support the rights of mothers and did so adopting a theory that motherhood was “sacred,” a position that saw more public identification with feminism than did its opposition. Close attention to feminist debates about Baby M reveal changing approaches to motherhood as a feminist issue.