While chattel slavery flourished in this country, the one exception to the usual rule of physical abuse and cruelty visited upon slaves in the ordinary course of business was the insidious solicitude towards the "breeder" slave, whose physical health generally, and reproductive health particularly, had to be preserved by the slavemaster to facilitate her role as supplier of future generations of slaves. Then, as now, economic considerations played a significant role in dictating the bounds of behavior towards the woman with reproductive capacity. The "breeder" slave's reproductive capacity was so important that the ordinary physical abuse was withheld to preserve her ability to procreate. Today, economic considerations are promoting a different policy towards some pregnant women-a policy of punishing them for engaging in activities during pregnancy believed to be harmful to fetuses, and of systematically discouraging them from giving birth at all.
Pregnancy and Drug Use: The Dangerous and Unequal Use of Punitive Measures,
Yale J.L. & Feminism
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