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Supervaluation of pregnant women is reductive of women
  1. Jennifer Parks1,
  2. Timothy F Murphy2
  1. 1 Philosophy, Loyola University Chicago College of Arts and Sciences, Chicago, Illinois, USA
  2. 2 Medical Education mc 591, University of Illinois Chicago College of Medicine, Chicago, Illinois, USA
  1. Correspondence to Professor Jennifer Parks, Philosophy, Loyola University Chicago College of Arts and Sciences, Chicago, Illinois, USA; jparks1{at}

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Robinson argues that by certain threshold criteria, pregnant women qualify for a higher moral status by reason of their pregnancies. While her intention is to make this a status upgrade for women, we worry that it may result in a status downgrade for women as a class, by presupposing and reinforcing women’s value in relation to their reproductive labour. Historically, central to feminist analysis is resistance to reductive accounts of women in relation to their reproductivity. For example, de Beauvoir addressed men’s transcendence and contrasted it with women’s immanence, a status distinction possible because women are mired in expectations that they will marry, produce children and remain in the domestic realm; and for her part, Firestone argued that biological reproduction underlies women’s inferiority to men and that ‘The reproduction of the species by one sex for the benefit of both (should) be replaced by…artificial reproduction’1 2 Her concern was to liberate women from expectations of biological reproduction so their productive value in society is not reduced to their reproductive contributions. A formidable body of analysis in this same vein cautions against collapsing the value of women into their pregnancies, so much so that some commentators even distinguish ‘mothering’ from gestation.3

Robinson’s argument that pregnant women qualify at a higher threshold of personhood emphasises …

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  • Contributors Both authors have contributed equally to the preparation of this commentary.

  • Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; internally peer reviewed.

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