About this site

Welcome to my site. My friends and I created this to share some of my work and - more importantly - to invite an exchange of ideas.

I've been a sociologist for a long time. and ventured into a number of different fields over the years: birth and midwifery (which I still think of as my home base); the new genetics and reproductive technologies; medical sociology; bioethics; issues in disability; adoption; race; and now food studies too. Some of you might know my work in one of these areas, others in a different area. What would be really interesting would be to have people talk, with each other and with me, across areas. I've tried, with some success over the years, to talk to midwives about genetics; to encourage people who do new reproductive technologies to think about home birth; to have bioethicists pay more attention to what medical sociology can offer; to get people in Food Studies thinking where midwifery issues overlap with their concerns. These are invariably the most fun and stimulating conversations I've ever been a part of. Connecting people, connecting ideas, weaving the webs that pull us together - nothing could make me happier. So this site, a gift from my friends, is my place to do this kind of weaving.

We've grouped my work by area - but please, if you're here because you have gotten anything useful out of my work in one area, do poke around for a minute in another. Bring your insights and wisdom and experience to a new place, a new issue. Let's see what we can weave together.

- Barbara Katz Rothman

Yet another technological fix to a social problem.

I wrote about a very similar topic back in February, but it comes up again and again. And it probably will come up many more times, even after they stop asking me for a soundbyte. 

According to the article that the people at NPR sent me, it appears that IVF may be somewhat more effective in creating pregnancies than we thought it was.  Or maybe not.  I read the article through and through, and there were a number of different ways to interpret the data.  What do we use for the baseline?  How successful is what we used to call ‘trying’ in achieving a pregnancy?  How successful is ‘unprotected intercourse’ as they sometimes call it?  (How successful is not trying?  Ask young woman if they’ve ever had an ‘accidental’ pregnancy --   it’s not all that rare now is it?)  Anyway, reading the new studies, it seems like if we are willing to buy eggs from younger women, putting them at who-knows-what risk, opening up baby-making to yet more market-place values, raise yet more identity and relationship issues for the children we so conceive, it may indeed be more possible than previously thought for women in their 40’s and up to produce a live baby.  
So what if it is indeed true?  What if the IVF rates, with purchased  eggs (euphemistically called ‘donated,’ but only very rarely does an older woman have a younger woman ready to ‘donate’ eggs for her) are just as good as the pregnancy rates for young women?  What if we just stop arguing the data, and say ‘so what?’  Is it a good thing that young and healthy women who want education and good careers cannot in any way, not in time nor in money nor in energy, afford children?  Is it a good thing for children to become a mid-life project?  Is it a good thing to conquer the biological clock for reproduction if the rest of the biological clock – the one for diabetes, stroke, dementia – keeps ticking?  We’ve had older men fathering children, often second-sets of them, as lovely late-life projects.  But those men usually had young wives to mother the kids, care for them through the aging and death of the father.  These delayed-childbearing women are less likely to have young partners to pick up the reins.  What are we wishing on our children?  And what are the costs for all of the women involved, the ones who delay, the ones who sell eggs, the ones who succeed in late-life baby-making and the ones who don’t?  

To listen to the interview, click here

Human Rights in Childbirth: a conference in the Hague.

For those who care about midwifery and home birth, the Netherlands has stood as a beacon of sanity, a light in the darkness, a ray of hope.  When all over the world midwives lost the power of an independent profession and became some kind of nurse or physician-extender, Dutch midwives remained Midwives.  When all over the world, women moved into hospitals for birth, Dutch women stayed home.  The story is more complicated (all stories always are) but over and over again, those of us arguing for home birth and for midwives turned to the Netherlands.  And we still do, but.... it's getting a bit precarious over there.  The home birth rate is down and dropping, the midwives are finding the appeal of shift work and turning over all the complicated cases to the doctors, the doctors are pushing for more control, the women are watching the same television as everyone else and expecting to be in agony and rescued by epidurals.  As midwives around the world face various forms of state-control, dramatically shown in the recent case of Agnes Gereb who was arrested for doing home births in Hungary, we turn, yet again to the Dutch, and hope they rise to the occasion. 

To learn about the conference, click here.
To read my contribution to the conference, click here.