I was a senior in high school when Vice President Dan Quayle delivered his soon-to-be-infamous diatribe against Murphy Brown while on the campaign trail. Quayle was supposed to be addressing the Los Angeles race riots, but along the way he ended up blaming single mothers for a decline in social values and blasting Candice Bergen’s fictional TV character for glorifying single motherhood as “just another lifestyle choice.” Although the speech was viewed at the time as a political gaffe, Quayle and then-President Bush capitalized on the media frenzy to politicize the notion of “family values.” They sought to convey to voters that motherhood should be confined to the institution of heterosexual marriage; morally questionable single mothers endangered both the welfare of children and society as a whole. In the years since Quayle’s speech, journalists, sociologists, and historians have continued to write about the Murphy Brown incident. Some argue that Quayle’s stance has proven prophetic and that single mothers do indeed wreak havoc on the social fabric.
What would you do if you desperately wanted to have a baby, and your spouse had HIV? In the mid-1990s, the introduction of highly-effective HIV drug regimens turned HIV from a death sentence into a chronic condition. People with HIV and their life partners could begin to imagine creating families and living to see their children grow up. But it was not until 2014 that researchers and policy-makers approved a prophylactic regimen that effectively protects against HIV-transmission even without condom use. (It still is not officially condoned for family-building purposes, but some physicians are willing to prescribe it for that purpose.) For almost two decades, HIV-discordant couples faced a special kind of infertility: it was childlessness caused by the threat of illness, by fear, and by a traumatized, cautious public health and medical community that could not move beyond its initial message, that “only condoms prevent HIV transmission.”
A new e-book, Positively Negative: Love, Pregnancy, and Science’s Surprising Victory over HIV, takes us into the lives of two couples who lived this history.
Ghostbelly: A Memoir. By Elizabeth Heineman. (New York: The Feminist Press, 2014. 320 pp. $16.95.) How do you grieve for a stillborn child? How do you ensure your child is remembered for having lived, not just for having died? These are the questions that Elizabeth Heineman explores in the unflinching, yet deeply intimate, Ghostbelly: A… Read more →