Laura Purdy

Laura Purdy In Laura Purdys essay “Are Pregnant Women Fetal Containers?” the issue that is dealt with is the relationship between pregnant women and their unborn fetus. She feels that the womans rights to her body should outweigh the rights of the fetus. She argues that pregnant woman are treated like second-class citizens in our society and that medical decisions are placed upon them that are not necessary and unjust. Purdy also discusses the role of the fetus, the moral duty of the mother, the bias against pregnant women in our justice system, and societys role in the double standard. Many people think that women have an obligation to give up their rights to their bodies when they become pregnant.

Purdy says that this should not be because we have a moral obligation to people, who are dependent on us, but that a fetus is not a person, even though she realizes that the fetus is dependent on the mother. In order to support this Purdy draws a comparison between pregnancy and parenthood, “..If parents are not required to submit to bodily invasions to save a dying child, then a woman should not be expected to do so for the benefit of a fetus; the converse is also true” (p 74). According to Purdy, the medical community has adopted a philosophy that focuses on a worst case scenario; mostly uncertain situations without proper probable cause. They focus on fetal death or damage rather than anything else, including the mothers life. Pregnant women are subject to forced Caesarians, forced prenatal or drug treatment and invasive surgery; all without consent. This philosophy leads Purdy to the conclusion that pregnant women are second-class citizens by comparing their court judgements in medical cases to that of judgements in cases of the unconscious, criminals, and individuals with mental problems.

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She says that the cases of the latter require more proof and take a lot longer to decide then medical cases of pregnant women. She says that the unconscious, criminals, and the mentally disabled have more safeguards protecting them than women do. Society throws in many factors into the treatment of expectant mothers. The issues of the availability of adequate health care to poverty stricken woman, the decision some women must make because of hazards at their workplace and environmental issues such as smoking, drinking, and drugs put women in a no win situation. Purdy best sums up her view on health care in two statements, “Until we as a society act to make good, inexpensive, convenient, and respectful care a priority, punishing women for lack of prenatal care reeks of hypocrisy.” (P 76) and “..Invading womens bodies to impose last minute, heroic care is stupid, mean, and unfair.” (P 76).

Society is also partly to blame for the lack of laws that would eliminate some toxins from workplaces that women of childbearing age could be exposed to. The choice of whether to keep a good job or have children is sometimes not an option for some families. This brings in a double standard for women too because men are not asked to sacrifice their jobs for the sake of their sperm. Drugs, smoking, and drinking are the main point of Purdys last statements against our society. She asks instead of punishing women for being addicted to a substance, why are we not asking how they got there to begin with? Purdy points out that the treatment needed to rid some mothers of addiction can take up to six months just to get in and at that point there is probably serious damage already done.

Her solution is to put in place more socials programs to keep people from turning to drugs in the first place. Purdy concludes that we need a more caring society to deal with this difficult relationship between the mother and her fetus. Every point in our society is unjust to pregnant women, our justice system, our workplaces, our medical community, and the community at large who treat expectant mothers differently. Her point is that they should not be treated such, that their body is their responsibility and that people should not interfere.


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