Anne Finger, a writer and disabled activist whose childhood polio left her with a disability, tells the story of her pregnancy, her birth experience at home and in the hospital, and the serious health problems her newborn son experienced.


Past Due positions human reproduction in a web of medical, ethical, and social discourses that collaborate to construct the experience and institution of pregnancy. The background against which Finger's experience of pregnancy develops includes an earlier pregnancy and abortion; her post-polio symptoms and chilling memories of childhood surgeries to correct a limp; her growing politicization as a disabled person; her participation in a reproductive rights group; her work in an abortion clinic; and her involvement in a discussion group on feminist conflicts about issues like "Baby Doe" regulations protecting the rights of disabled infants, amniocentesis, and selective abortion.

The collision of all these worlds in the experience of pregnancy generates intellectual and emotional conflicts that Finger records with impressive clarity, refusing to smooth them into easy resolutions. As she says, "I like living in hard places. Well, I'm not so sure I like it: I just seem to find myself there a lot" (59).

The story of the traumatic birth, and the grueling experience of parents waiting to see if a critically ill infant will live--and how--is riveting reading. Finger's anger at various people and agencies involved in her own and her child's medicalizations is authorized both by the details of her experience and by her unremitting honesty about her own complex, mixed, and not always pretty reactions to the extreme and unexpected difficulty of a longed-for experience of birth and parenting.

The book's engagement of disability, pregnancy, reproductive freedom, genetic testing, and eugenics as intertwined ethical issues would make it a strong choice for a medical humanities or medical ethics course; it is already taught in many disability studies classes.

Also, while most hospitals attend to the needs of children with particular care, Finger's memories of her childhood surgeries will remind any medical professional of what a child's experience of hospitalization is like, and how long the emotional reach of a bad hospital experience can be.


Seal Press

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