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  Many feminists consider that the capacity to conceive and give birth to children are pivotal to patriarchy\'s oppression of women. Juliet Mitchell, for example, identifies reproduction as one of the four main areas of women\'s oppression. Feminists have looked at how patriarchy controls reproduction and the care of children, and have sought strategies for transforming the ways in which motherhood and child-care are conceptualized. They have fought for women\'s right to control their own reproductive function through the use of contraception and the right to abortion. The right to choose is still an important issue in contemporary political campaigns such as the National Abortion Campaign and within women\'s health groups. In some countries these rights still do not exist and in other countries these rights are continuously in danger of being eroded.

Some feminist theorists have separated the reproductive function from sexuality, seeing this as a means of breaking down the identification of women with bringing up children. This separation enables some feminists to talk about female sexual pleasure and eroticism in social terms rather than as an extension of biological function. Other feminists have seen reproduction and child-care as being intrinsic to women\'s experience and do not wish to separate the reproductive function from sexuality.

As the project of feminism is to establish a critical re-examination of male-dominated systems of knowledge, medical methodology and science have come under a great deal of scrutiny. An example of male control of medicine has been found by feminist historians in the case of mid-wifery, where documented evidence shows that the role of women as midwives was consciously diminished and displaced by the male, medical professional. Shulamith Firestone criticizes medical science for its lack of interest in making the process of child-bearing external to the body. She also argues that both child-bearing and child-rearing should be a social responsibility and not seen as an exclusively female task. Julia Kristeva laments the rejection of motherhood by some radical feminists and asks for a new understanding of the physical and psychic agony of childbirth and child-rearing (see representation). Adrienne Rich has distinguised between a patriarchal view of motherhood and women\'s actual experience of motherhood. TK

Further reading Boston Women\'s Health Collective, Our Bodies, Ourselves; Shulamith Firestone, The Dialectic of Sex; , Adrienne Rich, Of Woman Born: Motherhood as Experience and Institution.



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