12 Heredity in the Epigenetic Era: Are We Facing a Politics of Reproductive Obligations? [chapter]

Michael Crawford
Time and Trace: Multidisciplinary Investigations of Temporality  
Recent research in the emerging field of epigenetics has implications with the potential to re-ignite acrimony in the discourse of reproductive rights, medical ethics, and the role of the state in our homes and in our lives. For scientists, epigenetics has profoundly realigned our understanding of heredity: epigenetics provides a mechanism through which the environmental challenges met in one generation can be inscribed and transmitted to future offspring. Although both genetic parents have the
more » ... ic parents have the potential to transmit heritable epigenetic changes to their offspring, mothers have a particularly potent effect because nutrition in the uterine environment can exert a supplemental effect upon the epigenetic imprint of her offspring, and potentially, upon subsequent generations. Moreover, parental care post partum may have generational consequences that are more than just social. Unless discussants have a nuanced understanding of basic epigenetics, women could suffer a disproportionate burden of the obligation to promote fetal, neonatal, and trans-generational health. Drawing upon past patterns of discourse, ethics, and legislation in reproductive rights, I will briefly list some of the challenges and temptations that we will be facing at the individual, familial, social, and legislative levels.
doi:10.1163/9789004315723_014 fatcat:a3354bh735fw3gc7yqkls6o6t4