Sophomore Seminars

Perspectives on the Abortion Experience in Western Fiction


Abortion care is one of the oldest and most controversial challenges of our time. As Marshall McLuhan said, "the medium is the message"; this course will explore how the media deliveres messages about abortion care as well as the broader questions of how abortion care and related issues in reproductive health and justice are fundamentally integrated into the societal fabric of U.S. and global societies. Examination of how abortion care is portrayed in novels and films provides the student of history, anthropology, and biology with unique insights into not only the author or director's perspectives, but also into societal attitudes and mores. Course texts will include novels, stories, social media and film excerpts. You will be asked to write essays in response to specific perspectives raised by the readings or viewing for that week and complete a final project on a topic of your choice related to one of the texts.

This course will be led by Dr. Erica Cahill with Dr. Paul Blumenthal as a monthly guest lecturer.


Meet the Instructor(s)

Paul D. Blumenthal, MD, MPH

Paul D. Blumenthal, M.D., MPH, is a Professor Emeritus of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Stanford University School of Medicine. He is the former Director of 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 the 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.

Erica P. Cahill MD

Erica P. Cahill, MD, MS(c), is a Clinical Assistant Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology and Complex Family Planning at Stanford University. She is the Co-Director of the Medical Students Reproductive Health Block, the Assistant Fellowship Director for the Fellowship in Complex Family Planning and course director of the Ob-Gyn Residency and Benign Gynecology rotation. Her research interests include addressing health disparities in perinatal and reproductive health through education and technology. She is committed to creating and supporting medically accurate reproductive policy. Her current research includes developing an AntiRacist Pregnancy Preferences Tool to address racism and other trauma in reproductive care. She also co-hosts a reproductive health podcast called The V Word and is active on social media as @drericacahill.