Integrating intersectionality into autonomy: Reflections on feminist bioethics and egg freezing

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Michiel De Proost ()

Published Jan 21, 2021


The field of bioethics struggles with the complexity of diversity and power differences. ‘Intersectionality in Clinical Medicine: The Need for a Conceptual Framework’ (Wilson et al., 2019) and its accompanying commentaries, though inventive and thought-provoking, overlook key principles of biomedical ethics. In this paper, I reflect on the debate and consider how an intersectional approach could inform normative theorizing. Traditional principlist reasoning leads to serious problems when we are trying to deal with the complexities of intersectionality, and this is especially true if we look at the principle of autonomy. I develop the idea that intersectionality is more in line with feminist inquiry in bioethics that attempts to reconfigure autonomy. However, feminist critiques of autonomy often remain less than thoroughly engaged with intersectionality. The case of social egg freezing is used to further support this claim. By foregrounding an intersectional approach to the existing relational autonomy claims in this debate, the complicated relational and justice concerns of reproduction are better brought into focus.

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