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"Real" Mothers for Abandoned Children

Katherine O'Donovan
Law & Society Review
Vol. 36, No. 2, Special Issue on Nonbiological Parenting (2002), pp. 347-378
Published by: Wiley on behalf of the Law and Society Association
DOI: 10.2307/1512180
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/1512180
Page Count: 32
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Since scans are not currently available to screen readers, please contact JSTOR User Support for access. We'll provide a PDF copy for your screen reader.
"Real" Mothers for Abandoned Children
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Abstract

Drawing on the laws and practices of three countries--England, France, and Germany--this article examines the constructions of narratives of abandoned children. Although the three countries share the values of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, having ratified it, their laws and practices with regard to the child's identity rights have little in common. Explaining the different approaches to abandonment, the article argues that these are justified by stories about the birth giver as the "real" mother, stories that vary according to place and culture. This leads to different conceptions of the child's identity and of motherhood, to exclusions and stigma. Focusing on the justifications offered in each country for its laws and practices, the article analyzes discourses of nature (England), juridical constructs (France), and pragmatic concerns for the child's life (Germany). The article concludes that, given the myriad of family forms and of life experiences, it is not surprising to find that countries governed by a shared international convention give very different accounts of the meanings of identity and motherhood.

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