The power of new medical technologies, the cultural authority of physicians, and the gendered power dynamics of many patient-physician relationships can all inhibit women's reproductive freedom. Often these factors interfere with women's ability to trust themselves to choose and act in ways that are consistent with their own goals and values. In this book Carolyn McLeod introduces to the reproductive ethics literature the idea that in reproductive health care women's self-trust can be undermined in ways that threaten their autonomy. Understanding the importance of self-trust for autonomy, McLeod argues, is crucial to understanding the limits on women's reproductive freedom.
McLeod brings feminist insights in philosophical moral psychology to reproductive ethics, and to health-care ethics more broadly. She identifies the social environments in which self-trust is formed and encouraged. She also shows how women's experiences of reproductive health care can enrich our understanding of self-trust and autonomy as philosophical concepts. The book's theoretical components are grounded in women's concrete experiences. The cases discussed, which involve miscarriage, infertility treatment, and prenatal diagnosis, show that what many women feel toward themselves in reproductive contexts is analogous to what we feel toward others when we trust or distrust them.
McLeod also discusses what health-care providers can do to minimize the barriers to women's self-trust in reproductive health care, and why they have a duty to do so as part of their larger duty to respect patient autonomy.