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A History of Reproductive Rights in the US
Since the late 19th century, a woman’s right to control her intimate reproductive life in the United States emerged as a publicly contested arena. This conflict and the stakes for reproductive rights has never been more fraught than in our present moment.
This course explores the long history of women’s reproductive lives in the US as the context for that struggle. Topics include the history of women’s sexuality, birth control, abortion, childbirth, and motherhood. We will examine women’s personal experience of these processes, and the religious, moral legal, and policy frameworks that sought to regulate them. We also explore the series of feminist movements that emerged to protect women’s reproductive rights, leading to the current legal battles. We will conclude with current court cases challenging abortion laws.
Questions we will grapple with include: what are reproductive rights and how do they fit within the context of overall women’s rights? What historical forces have shaped women’s ability to control their reproductive lives? How has women’s control of their reproductive lives varied by race, ethnicity and class? What factors led to the recent polarization in attitudes towards reproductive rights in the US?