Sophomore Seminars

Perspectives on the Abortion Experience in Western Fiction

OBGYN 81Q

Abortion remains one of the most controversial and polarizing challenges of our time. Yet it has been a clinical, social, political, and cultural fact in a broad swath of societies for centuries. As is common for such lightning-rod issues, the topic of abortion has featured prominently in a number of novels and films. Each treatment provides a unique perspective on at least one aspect of abortion, whether it be clinical or social, political or cultural. Examination of how abortion is portrayed in novels and films provides the student of history, anthropology, and biology with unique insights into not only the author's or director's perspectives, but also serves as a window into societal attitudes and mores. As Marshall McLuhan said, "the medium is the message," and this course will explore the role of the media in delivering abortion-related messages as well as the broader questions of how abortion and related issues are fundamentally integrated into the social fabric of U.S. and global societies. Course texts will be novels, stories, and films. You will be asked to write essays in response to specific perspectives raised by the readings/viewing for that week and a final paper on a topic of your choice related to one of the texts.

Meet the Instructor(s)

Paul D. Blumenthal, MD, MPH

Paul D. Blumenthal, M.D., MPH, is a professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Stanford University School of Medicine. He directs the Gynecology Service and the Division of Family Planning Services and Research at Stanford. He also directs SPIRES, the Stanford Program for International Reproductive Education and Services, an initiative providing technical assistance and training to family planning programs in a wide variety of countries across Africa, Asia, and Central America. For over 25 years, Dr. Blumenthal has been an advisor to multiple international agencies such as Gynuity Health Projects, Family Health International, Jhpiego Corporation, and the World Health Organization and served as the Special Advisor to Minister of Health and Family Planning of the Republic of Madagascar. He currently serves as the Global Medical Director for Population Services International, and has served as medical director for both Planned Parenthood of Chicago and Maryland in the past. Among other things, Dr. Blumenthal is currently involved in studies of community-based distribution of injectable contraceptives, postpartum IUD insertion, and "single visit" approaches to the prevention of cervical cancer and simplification of medical abortion regimens.