Obstetric Violence and Vulnerability: A Bioethical Approach

Corinne Berzon, Sara Cohen Shabot

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


At healthcare facilities worldwide, women during childbirth undergo medical procedures they haven’t consented to and experience mistreatment and disrespect. This phenomenon is recognized as obstetric violence (OV), a distinct form of gender violence. The resulting trauma carries both immediate and long-term implications, making it vital to address for promoting women’s health. OV is partly shaped by a narrow, paternalistic conception of vulnerability. A flawed conception of the vulnerability of pregnant women and fetuses has opened the door to medical control and coercion during childbirth. In this paper we examine what role notions of vulnerability play in perpetuating OV and consider recent attitudinal shifts in research ethics as a model for addressing it.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)52-76
Number of pages25
JournalInternational Journal of Feminist Approaches to Bioethics
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 2023

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© International Network on Feminist Approaches to Bioethics, 2023.


  • feminist bioethics and childbirth
  • gendered violence
  • medicalization of childbirth
  • obstetric violence
  • rights of women in childbirth

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Gender Studies
  • Health(social science)
  • Philosophy


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