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  • The Concept of A Feminist Bioethics:IJFAB at Ten
  • Mary C. Rawlinson (bio)

Dear IJFAB Readers,

This tenth anniversary issue of IJFAB will be the last to appear under the Stony Brook masthead. In 2007, on the day of the blizzard that came to be known as the St. Patrick’s Day Snowstorm, the “protoeditorial board” met at Stony Brook Manhattan to begin creating IJFAB. We were guided in this endeavor by the late, great Anne Donchin, a cofounder of FAB as well as a beloved mentor and friend. As a philosopher, Anne held that concepts imply practical commitments or creeds. She had a very clear idea of the creed of FAB, and she meant, through her gentle but firm guidance, to see that IJFAB adhered to it.1

First, IJFAB was always to maintain an international or transnational perspective. Urgent issues in bioethics can only be understood in the larger context of globalization. Questions about the ethics of the surrogacy industry in India, for example, need to be addressed in light of the pressures on Anglo-European women to reproduce biologically. Volume 7, number 2 of IJFAB, edited by Françoise Baylis and Jocelyn Downie, explores the ethical complexities of transnational reproductive travel under globalization. Carolyn McLeod’s work, including her essay in this issue, analyzes the structural forces that determine women’s choice in reproduction, while driving the global fertility industry. Similarly, spiking levels of obesity in Indonesia can only be understood in relation to the introduction of global food and the privileging of agribusiness over local economies. Feminist bioethics pays attention to the way in which [End Page 1] transnational differences in privilege and wealth produce inequalities of health. IJFAB’s third issue, guest edited by Arleen Sales, presents transnational dialogues in health care focused on biocapitalism, or various forms of buying and selling bodies in global markets, and the possibilities of transnational justice. Several issues contain essays in Spanish or French or essays that were specifically written and translated for IJFAB. Virtually every issue includes an array of global perspectives, as well as essays like Katy Fulfer’s review essay on cross-border reproductive travel in this tenth anniversary issue that clearly situate bioethical issues in their transnational context.

Second, IJFAB was to embrace the necessity of interdisciplinarity in bioethics. An ethics uninformed by data on poverty and discrimination or an anthropology unaware of its own epistemic commitments will be equally barren. Bioethics requires an engaged theory and a self-critical social science. This tenth anniversary issue, as with every issue of IJFAB, includes a range of different methods and disciplinary perspectives. IJFAB has also tried to encourage experimentation with method and voice. Deploying the philosophical theories of Eva Feder Kittay and Maurice Merleau-Ponty, Tim R. Johnston argues eloquently in this issue for the importance of touch in elder care and for the importance of understanding gender identity in knowing how to touch. Johnston’s theoretical arguments find their compliment in Françoise Baylis’s compelling narrative of caring for her cognitively disabled mother. Both contributions, in different styles, call for a rethinking of how identity is understood in the context of medical care and the impairments of illness.

Third, IJFAB was to adhere to its responsibility as a force of generativity. A central purpose from the beginning was to create a vehicle for new voices and dialogue across generations. This issue, as with every issue of IJFAB, combines emerging voices like Johnston and Fulfer with such distinguished leaders in bioethics as Sue Sherwin and McLeod. Nothing was more important in Anne’s creed than fostering the next generation.

Fourth, IJFAB, like FAB, was to be run as a collaborative and nonhierar-chic enterprise. Anne always got a kick out of the fact that I, the editor, had been overruled by Wendy Rogers and Carolyn McLeod in the matter of the curly font. We created structures aimed at maximizing collaborations and consultation with the explicit idea that IJFAB should be a force for inclusion, not exclusion. [End Page 2]

All of these commitments flowed directly from Anne’s idea of relational autonomy. Sue Sherwin, who wrote the lead essay for IJFAB’s inaugural issue, returns...


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