Policing the Womb: Invisible Women and the Criminalization of Motherhood

Regular price $ 29.99

by Michelle Goodwin

Cambridge University Press

03/12/2020, hardcover

SKU: 9781107030176


Policing the Womb brings to life the chilling ways in which women have become the targets of secretive state surveillance of their pregnancies. Michele Goodwin expands the reproductive health and rights debate beyond abortion to include how legislators increasingly turn to criminalizing women for miscarriages, stillbirths, and threatening the health of their pregnancies. The horrific results include women giving birth while shackled in leg irons, in solitary confinement, and even delivering in prison toilets. In some states, pregnancy has become a bargaining chip with prosecutors offering reduced sentences in exchange for women agreeing to be sterilized. The author shows how prosecutors may abuse laws and infringe women's rights in the process, sometimes with the complicity of medical providers who disclose private patient information to law enforcement. Often the women most affected are poor and of color. This timely book brings to light how the unrestrained efforts to punish and police women's bodies have led to the United States being the deadliest country in the developed world to be pregnant.


"Based on extensive research and advocacy, Michele Goodwin vividly shows how the intensifying punishment of pregnant women in the name of fetal protection comes at a devastating cost to human health and freedom. Policing the Womb is an urgent call to end the dehumanizing practice of criminalizing pregnancy." -- Dorothy Roberts, author of Killing the Black Body: Race, Reproduction, and the Meaning of Liberty and Torn Apart: How the Child Welfare System Destroys Black Families - And How Abolition Can Build a Safer World

"Professor Goodwin has written the definitive examination of the disturbing and pervasive trend of policing pregnant women’s bodies. She skillfully draws on contemporary stories as examples that reflect how the establishment of legal rights for the unborn - so-called 'fetal protection laws' - inevitably define pregnant women’s bodies as objects of the state, to be controlled and punished. Informative and eye-opening, Policing the Womb makes a clear case for systemic change towards reproductive justice." -- Rebecca Haimowitz, Director and Producer of 62 Days

About the Author:

Michele Goodwin is an Executive Committee member of the American Civil Liberties Union and elected member of the American Law Institute. She is also a Chancellor's Professor at the University of California, Irvine where she teaches constitutional law and directs the Center for Biotechnology and Global Health Policy. She is an internationally recognized voice on women's rights, reproductive health, and constitutional law and lectures worldwide on matters relating to the exploitation of women and girls and the rising regulation of pregnancy and criminalization of women.