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Fertile Matters

The Politics of Mexican-Origin Women's Reproduction

By Elena R. Gutiérrez

Publication Year: 2008

An exploration into how Mexican-origin women’s reproduction has been stereotyped and demonized in the United States.

Published by: University of Texas Press

Series: Chicana Matters

Title Page, Copyright Page

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pp. vii-viii

A Note on Terminology

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pp. ix-x

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pp. xi-xiv

Fertile Matters is an exploration of the ways we have come to think about the reproduction of women of Mexican origin in the United States. In particular, I look closely at one of the most popular and longstanding public stereotypes that portray Mexican American and Mexican women as “hyper-fertile...

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pp. xv-xix

This book is truly a product of my entire academic trajectory and political journey, and was born from the support, inspiration, and intelligence of many. I began writing about reproductive politics fifteen years ago when I researched my first paper on Chicanas and abortion during my undergraduate...

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One. The Fertility of Women of Mexican Origin: A Social Constructionist Approach

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pp. 1-13

“I think what we are trying to show is that throughout the entire period that the doctors were not using medical reasons to perform these sterilizations, but were using social reasons. That is very pertinent to this case.”1 Attorney Antonia Hernández spoke these words as she implored federal district court judge Jesse...

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Two. The Twin Problems of Overpopulation and Immigration in 1970s California

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pp. 14-34

When the physicians at lacmc identified Mexican-origin women as excessively fertile and as prime candidates for sterilization, they were defining a key “social problem” of the 1970s and its solution. Indeed, during the 1960s and 1970s a host of interests converged that collectively created a...

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Three. “They Breed Like Rabbits”: The Forced Sterilization of Mexican-Origin Women

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pp. 35-54

Antonia Hernández had just begun her first job as a staff attorney at the Los Angeles County Center for Law and Justice when Bernard Rosenfeld, a resident at lacmc, approached her with data proving that women were being coercively...

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Four. “More Than a Hint of Extraordinary Fertility. . . .”: Social Science Perspectives on Mexican-Origin Women’s Reproductive Behavior (1912–1980)

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pp. 55-72

In a 1973 article published in the academic journal Social Biology,1 demographer Peter Uhlenberg remarked that “the strikingly high fertility of Mexican Americans relative to the dominant pattern in the United States has received almost no sociological or demographic analysis.”2 Noting that no other racial...

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Five. Controlling Borders and Babies: John Tanton, ZPG, and Racial Anxiety over Mexican-Origin Women’s Fertility

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pp. 73-93

So begins the preface to Paul Ehrlich’s 1979 book The Golden Door, written with his wife, Anne, and Loy Bilderback. Published eleven years after Paul Ehrlich’s first treatise, The Population Bomb (1968), the new book identified a different problem plaguing the nation—the arrival of super-fertile Mexican...

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Six .The Right to Have Children: Chicanas Organizing Against Sterilization Abuse

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pp. 94-108

Yolanda Nava, representing Comisión Femenil Mexicana Nacional, began her 1973 testimony before the California Commission on the Status of Women with a frank and fundamental point: “Let me begin by stating that contrary to the stereotype of the Chicana at home making tortillas and babies...

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Seven. “Baby-Makers and Welfare Takers”: The (Not-So) New Politics of Mexican-Origin Women’s Reproduction

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pp. 109-122

On October 9, 1988, the Arizona Republic published the above confidential memo intended only for participants in a private study group concerned with the demographic changes occurring in the United States. The study group, convened by John H. Tanton, previous president of Zero Population Growth (zpg) and founder of both the Federation of American...

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pp. 123-128

Just over thirty years after the case of Madrigal v. Quilligan was tried, reporter Fransizka Castillo wrote an essay about the anniversary of the case, published in Latina magazine. Included to celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month, the four-page spread focused on the valiant efforts of Antonia Hernández and...


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pp. 129-164


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pp. 165-184


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pp. 185-199

E-ISBN-13: 9780292794566
E-ISBN-10: 0292794568
Print-ISBN-13: 9780292716810
Print-ISBN-10: 0292716818

Page Count: 221
Illustrations: none
Publication Year: 2008

Series Title: Chicana Matters