How Words Shape Debate

Writing in The Feminist Wire, Monica Casper challenges the rhetoric of “reproductive tourism” and “maternity tourism”.  Casper argues for the importance of not associating the language of “tourism” with every instance of going abroad for the purpose of obtaining health care.  Suggesting that language plays a role in shaping how issues are framed and publicly debated, Casper reviews but ultimately dismisses such labels as cross-border reproductive care (too empty a phrase) and reproductive exile (too vague and dependent upon biblical imagery).  She recommends replacing “reproductive tourism” with the phrase, “transnational reproduction”.  Left unexplored in her piece is why phrases such as “reproductive tourism”, “medical tourism”, “transplant tourism”, and “stem cell tourism” are routinely used by both reporters and health researchers.  Do such terms accurately identify journeys that involve both health care and some tourist-like activities?  Have labels best used for marketing and promotion been successfully mainstreamed? Why are critics of these phrases having such a difficult time successfully promoting other terms?  And what happens to serious public debate when our critical faculties go on holidays?

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