Wednesday, September 9, 2009
Scholarship by Michelle Oberman
Michelle Oberman (Santa Clara Law) has posted Thirteen Ways of Looking at Buck v. Bell on SSRN. Here is the abstract:
This article is a review essay of Paul Lombardo's THREE GENERATIONS, NO IMBECILES: EUGENICS, THE SUPREME COURT AND BUCK V. BELL [Johns Hopkins Press, 2008]. Using Lombardo's rich and fascinating history of eugenics in the U.S. as a foundation, I propose and then explore a series of implications that stem from Buck v. Bell and are related to eugenic practices in the U.S. in the 1920s and 30s. The themes upon which Lombardo touches may be grouped into three general categories: the state role in regulating fertility; gender, race, and class issues in fertility regulation; and contemporary reproduction-related politics as they pertain to human attributes. The article is written with an eye to a semester-long study of the governmental regulation of reproduction, past, present and future. Among the themes that fall within the first of these three broad categories are issues of fiduciary duty, which grow out of Lombardo's examination of the roles of doctors and lawyers in the Buck case. I also consider the government's role in regulating population more generally, examining the eugenic implications of contemporary immigration and population policies. The themes relating to gender, race and class include the consideration of maternal-doctor-fetal conflicts, as well as historical and contemporary efforts to link fertility control to criminal punishment. Finally, the third set of themes includes a discussion of the eugenic implications of contemporary issues in reproductive technology. Lombardo's book is well researched and fascinating. It deserves a broad readership, and this review provides a mechanism for bringing this rich history to life in the classroom and beyond.
Professor Oberman has also posted Eva and her Baby (A Story of Adolescent Sex, Pregnancy, Longing, Love, Loneliness and Death) on SSRN:
This article is written in the form of a creative non-fiction essay in which I tell the story of Eva, a girl who was convicted of manslaughter in connection with the death of her newborn child. I undertook this mode of story-telling after years of writing in more conventional modes about maternal filicide in general, and neonaticide in particular. (Most recently, I co-authored a book entitled When Mothers Kill: Interviews from Prison (NYU Press, 2008)). The conventions governing standard law review writing and the relatively distant observer's voice I adopted in my earlier writings left me feeling as though I had failed to communicate an important part of the factors underlying neonaticide. This essay, in which I fuse Eva's story with my own, undertakes to tell a fuller truth about the complex factors that underlie this crime. The essay is part of a series of creative endeavors (essays and articles) in which I adopt an ethnographic or quasi-ethnographic approach to considering the nexus of criminal law and women's lives.