Volume 13, Issue 2, Fall 1999
Jennifer A. Parks
Ethical Androcentrism and Maternal Substance Addiction
Concerns of a Feminist Ethicist
In this paper, I argue that bioethics suffers from a masculinist approach-what I call “ethical androcentrism.” Despite the genesis of other legitimate approaches to ethics (such as feminist, narrative, and communicative ethics), this masculinist tradition persists. The first part of my paper concerns the problem of ethical androcentrism, and how it is manifest in our typical ways of “doing” bioethics (as teachers, ethicists, policymakers, and medical practitioners). After arguing that bioethics suffers from a masculinist ethic, I consider the case of maternal substance addiction to show how this ethic negatively affects the treatment of pregnant addicts. I argue that by treating maternal substance addiction from an androcentric approach, we fail to serve both pregnant addicts and their fetuses; furthermore, we misrepresent the intentional state of pregnant substance addicts and label them “prenatal abusers.” If maternal substance addiction is to be ethically addressed -- and if pregnant substance addicts are to be effectively treated -- we cannot tacitly accept an androcentric ethic.