Making Babies, Making Families

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9780807044087: Making Babies, Making Families

Heart-wrenching, high-profile court cases such as the Baby M case have called attention to the troubling consequences of new reproductive technology; the law has yet to catch up with the ways that people create families today. Although these times may appear chaotic and confusing, Mary Shanley shows us that we don't have to be afraid. Her timely work begins by demonstrating that the traditional model of the "natural," patriarchal family is outdated, and that the newer contractual model based on equality between adults can lead to questionable results for the child.

Shanley offers a new vision of family law that's based on existing caring relationships of adults for children. It ensures each child's right to be cared for, and takes into account the emotional realities of family life. She applies this practical, humane model to the most complex and controversial issues of our time, including adoption, biological fathers' legal rights, surrogate motherhood, lesbian families, and the rights of sperm and egg donors and recipients.

"In this impressive study of family law's uneasiness with custody rights, Shanley explores how dominant notions of family (in which the primary partners are married, heterosexual and of the same race) have contributed to legal rulings on adoption and surrogacy....Shanley's discussion of transracial adoptions and the controversial role of race in shaping custody rights is evenhanded and riveting, as is her critique of surrogacy-for-pay and the sale of genetic material. Readers may be surprised that the U.S. is the only Western country that doesn't restrict human ova sales, and that France doesn't pay sperm donors. This critically sophisticated yet readily accessible discussion of adoption, reproductive technology and parental responsibility represents a much-needed addition to the growing number of books on new forms of family in the 21st century." —Publishers Weekly

"Making Babies, Making Families takes on all the hard questions . . . and with unflinching clear sight, clearly defined principles, and moral compassion creates a compelling basis for answers." —Mona Harrington, author of Care and Equality

"[This] distinctive and valuable contribution ensures that [we] protect the interests of children and other vulnerable people while sustaining the bonds of intimacy." —Martha Minow, author of Between Vengeance and Forgiveness

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About the Author:

Mary Lyndon Shanley is professor of political science at Vassar College. She is author of Feminism, Marriage, and the Law in Victorian England and coeditor of Feminist Interpretations and Political Theory and Reconstructing Political Theory.

From Publishers Weekly:

In this impressive study of family law's uneasiness with custody rights, Shanley (Feminism, Marriage and the Law in Victorian England) explores how dominant notions of family (in which the primary partners are married, heterosexual and of the same race) have contributed to legal rulings on adoption and surrogacy. Shanley critiques our collective fantasy of adopted children as "free standing individuals with no relevant links to either their birth parents or the racial, ethnic, or religious groups [of] their birth parents," arguing that the common practice of joining children and parents who could be biologically related in effect "ratif[ies] a family based on biological ties as the desirable norm." More realistic, she argues, is to conceptualize "family" as something more fluid and complex: "a child may have more than two `parents': genetic parents (sperm and egg donors), biological parents, stepparents, adoptive parents." This inclusive perception allows adoptees "to construct a coherent story of origin" and also lets birth parents experience their full range of feelings for their offspring. Shanley's discussion of transracial adoptions and the controversial role of race in shaping custody rights is evenhanded and riveting, as is her critique of surrogacy-for-pay and the sale of genetic material. Readers may be surprised to find that the U.S. is the only Western country that doesn't restrict human ova sales, and that France doesn't pay sperm donors. This critically sophisticated yet readily accessible discussion of adoption, reproductive technology and parental responsibility represents a much-needed addition to the growing number of books on new forms of family in the 21st century.

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

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