Title

Feminist Perspectives in Health Law

Document Type

Article

Publication Date

January 2019

Volume

47

Abstract

This essay argues that feminist legal theory offers an important, and underutilized, perspective to examine health law and policy. We use several theoretical frameworks developed by feminist legal theorists including relational autonomy, intersectionality, vulnerability theory, and the feminist critique of the public-private divide to demonstrate the utility of these theories to health law analysis. These frameworks provide insights relevant not only to issues that obviously relate to gender, but also to matters of choice, quality, and access that are less obviously gender-related. We map three key areas of existing scholarship and future inquiry at the intersection of health law and feminist legal theory: (I) patient choice and relational autonomy, (II) patriarchy, power and patient safety, and (III) access to health care and healthy living conditions at the public-private divide. Uniting these areas of inquiry is a nagging question central to the relationship between critical legal scholarship (including feminist scholarship) and pragmatic action to combat injustice: Can we use legal rights to achieve our aims even as we recognize them as tainted tools that have propped up oppressive social structures? A feminist agenda for health law and policy must grapple with this dilemma.

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