Feminist Approaches to Bioethics

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Feminist Approaches to Bioethics (FAB)
Formation 1992
Legal status Network
Focus Bioethics
Key people
Mary C. Rawlinson
Anne Donchin
Subsidiaries Journal:
Affiliations International Association of Bioethics
International Journal of Feminist Approaches to Bioethics (IJFAB)
Website www.ijfab.org

Feminist Approaches to Bioethics (International Network on Feminist Approaches to Bioethics), or FAB, is a network of feminists in bioethics, adding feminist perspectives to ethical issues in health care and the biosciences. It publishes a journal, IJFAB: International Journal of Feminist Approaches to Bioethics, and is affiliated with the International Association of Bioethics, with which it meets.


FAB was formed in 1992 at the inaugural meeting of the IAB. Its aims are to create a more inclusive bioethical theory from the viewpoint of disadvantaged groups such as women. It critiques bioethical theory that privileges groups with power.

As IJFAB editor Mary C. Rawlinson writes of the general state of bioethics in the introduction to the journal's inaugural issue,

It was as if the masculine marking of the subject in the history of ethics and politics made no difference. Just as medicine has often assumed that it could approach the female body through nosologies and clinical practices drawn from a study of the male body, philosophers and theorists in ethics and politics seemed to think that if feminism requires an extension of the rights of man, it does not require any rethinking of the basic concepts and strategies of bioethics itself.

This assessment assumes that man, the subject of both the sciences of man and the rights of man, supplies an absolute generic. Thus, women's experience is either a special case, whose logic may apply only to itself, or its difference is irrelevant and can be subsumed without harm or loss under the generic man. From the beginning, feminist bioethics was suspicious of this logic of abstraction in both medicine and bioethics. Its approaches were informed by the feminist critique of this sleight of hand, in which a specific historical experience is installed as the absolute universal in science or ethics. As Anne Donchin and Margrit Shildrik note in this volume, early on feminist bioethics disputed the adequacy of abstract universal norms. Feminist approaches to bioethics challenged the field for its reliance on abstract principles disconnected from the material conditions of action and the specificities of the relationships in which ethical urgencies arise. Feminist bioethics continues to contribute significantly to this critique of abstraction in ethics by exposing the complicity of its supposedly generic subject with concepts of property, propriety (norms), and privilege, as well as with the material practices that these concepts authorize in relation to others.[1]

Co-founding member Anne Donchin writes this on the occasion of FAB's 20th anniversary:

So what has FAB accomplished in its initial twenty years? We should take heart in our influence on the development of feminist bioethics. Through a shared vision and cross-fertilization of theoretical orientations, we have brought fresh perspectives to bioethical theory and major topics in bioethics. Our contributions are distinctive insofar as treatment of these topics is grounded in feminist scholarship that draws on background norms and prevailing conditions that shape health options. We look toward a future when feminist thought has a more profound influence on bioethics, when the voices of the socially marginalized are more fully recognized, and the needs of all social groups are integrated into a system of health-care justice that is responsive to the diverse needs of humans across the globe. That we’ve made it to our twentieth anniversary and continue to have such able leadership gives me fresh confidence that FAB’s future is assured.[2]

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  1. ^ Rawlinson, Mary C. (2008). "Introduction". IJFAB: International Journal of Feminist Approaches to Bioethics. University of Toronto Press via JSTOR. 1 (1): 1–2. JSTOR 40339209. 
  2. ^ Donchin, Anne (Spring 2014). "Remarks on the occasion of FAB's twentieth anniversary, June 25, 2012". IJFAB: International Journal of Feminist Approaches to Bioethics. University of Toronto Press via JSTOR. 7 (1): 206. doi:10.2979/intjfemappbio.7.1.204.