Cover image for Testing women, testing the fetus : the social impact of amniocentesis in America
Testing women, testing the fetus : the social impact of amniocentesis in America
Reiter, Rayna R.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
New York : Routledge, 1999.
Physical Description:
xiii, 361 pages ; 24 cm

Format :


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Material Type
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Item Holds
RG628.3.A48 R37 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

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Rich with the voices and stories of participants, these touching, firsthand accounts examine how women of diverse racial, ethnic, class and religious backgrounds perceive prenatal testing, the most prevalent and routinized of the new reproducing technologies. Based on the author's decade of research and her own personal experiences with amniocentesis, Testing Women, Testing the Fetus explores the "geneticization" of family life in all its complexity and diversity.

Author Notes

Rayna Rapp is Professor of Anthropology at the New School for Social Research.

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Rapp, an anthropologist, ably combines personal experience of amniocentesis with her professional expertise. She has interviewed women of many different racial, cultural, religious, educational, and financial backgrounds, whom, throughout her informative book, she presents as thinking and caring persons. How does a woman decide to have an amniocentesis? Rapp asks. She shows that complex, diverse, and contradictory personal, spousal, and social pressures arise and affect the pregnant woman. For example, what, if anything, does the decision to have the test imply that a woman will do when the results become available? Rapp also explores the role of the genetic counselor: how much of the relevant scientific information does this person actually understand and put in context so that a patient can comprehend it? This volume begins a new series, the Anthropology of Everyday Life. May successive entries be as good as Rapp's. --William Beatty

Publisher's Weekly Review

At 36, Rapp, an anthropologist at the New School for Social Research, had amnio for her first, wanted, pregnancy. When the results showed Down's syndrome, she chose abortion, with much grief. Her experience led to 15 years of research on how women of many social, economic and religious backgrounds experience genetic testing and how they interpret the information this new medical technology provides. The result is a thoughtful, if concentrated, analysis that is rich with the voices of genetic counselors, lab technicians and geneticists; pregnant women who chose to be tested as well as those who refused; those who got "bad" results; and parents of children with disabilities. In addition to tracing how genetic counselors' focus on individual choice can mask social context, Rapp also reveals how women, with or without their partners, negotiate the important decision whether or not to undergo the test. One chapter dissects the miscommunications that occur when technical language is translated into the vernacular. Another chapter lays bare how expectant parents think about fetal disabilityÄand resonates with one concerning parents of disabled children. Rapp concludes that prenatal testing puts women in the role of "moral philosophers," learning to think about statistical risk analysis in relation to the "natural" process of pregnancy. Readers unintimidated by academic writing will find this study a valuable exploration of the moral and personal decisions involved in bringing a pregnancy to term. (Sept.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

Rapp, a feminist medical anthropologist who chose to terminate a pregnancy after learning that the fetus had Down syndrome, examines the social impact and cultural meaning of the prenatal tests currently available, having interviewed women waiting for test results, deciding whether to continue a pregnancy, or who refused to be tested. By observing genetic counselors at work and talking to families raising children with disabilities, she discovers the practical problems connected with testing and the different responses to pregnancy, family life, and disability in diverse ethnic groups and social classes. Her analysis of the intersection of reproductive and disability rights and their links to feminist and power issues is interesting. This jargon-filled and heavily theoretical work is not for women making decisions about testing, though; Lachlan de Crespigny's Which Tests for My Unborn Baby?: Ultrasound and Other Prenatal Tests (Oxford Univ., 1996) is a good choice for them. Recommended for academic women's studies and health sciences collections.ÄBarbara M. Bibel, Oakland P.L., CA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Table of Contents

Acknowledgmentsp. ix
1 How Methodology Bleeds into Daily Lifep. 1
2 Accounting for Amniocentesisp. 23
3 The Communication of Riskp. 53
4 Contested Conceptions and Misconceptionsp. 78
5 Waiting and Watchingp. 103
6 The Disabled Fetal Imaginaryp. 129
7 Refusingp. 165
8 Culturing Chromosomes, or What's in the Soupp. 191
9 An Error in Cell Division, or The Power of Positive Diagnosisp. 220
10 The Unexpected Babyp. 263
11 Endings Are Really Beginningsp. 304
Notesp. 319
Referencesp. 330
Permissionsp. 353
Indexp. 354