Thirty-nine years ago, the U.S. Supreme Court decided Roe v. Wade, which upheld abortion rights on the basis of privacy and the limits of government. Hardly a matter of history, the decision reverbs throughout all our lives, certainly in the more-than-you-think number of people who obtain abortions, but also in present-day politics.
We saw a great number of our leaders this year step outside their priorities of jobs and the economy to champion the defunding of Planned Parenthood and other family planning clinics. (My post: "... For This Important Message.") The Guttmacher Institute, which created the above video, also crunched the numbers: in all fifty states, legislators introduced a breathtaking 1,100 reproductive rights provisions in 2011, the highest number ever. Most of them restrict abortion, though -- and this is telling -- a great number of them limit contraception and education. Last year, North Dakota joined 37 states that legally mandate abstinence-only education in schools. Montana eliminated the family planning line item in the state budget. New Hampshire and Texas cut family planning funding by 57% and 66%, respectively. Arizona now prohibits the use of public funds to train abortion providers at state universities. It also prohibited residents from seeking a tax deduction for donations to orgs that provide, promote or makes referrals for abortion. (This measure is currently enjoined by U.S. District Court.)
Five states enacted provisions last year that require women seeking an abortion to obtain counseling that includes misinformation about the procedure; that makes for a total of 16 states that "require that women be given misleading information prior to having an abortion." Tennessee, which already had a fetal homicide statute, expanded it to apply to injury to a fetus throughout pregnancy, not just after viability -- which puts women who experience miscarriages under criminal suspicion. Also, Indiana and Kansas adopted provisions that require women to be told that a fetus is a person from the moment of conception before she can have an abortion. It is now mandated that a woman in North Dakota be told that abortion causes breast cancer. A new requirement in North Carolina mandates that women be told that having an abortion can impair their future fertility.
The litany goes on and on. Our legislators are busy!
Look, I've made dramatic shifts in my own thinking about abortion in my life. I get that reasonable people can have different experiences and opinions about Roe v. Wade. That's actually why I appreciate the morality behind "choice" -- as in a democracy, there is room for people to disagree. (Exhale is a wonderful organization that honors this diversity under a "pro-voice" ideal.) At the same time, I believe that given the prominence of reproductive rights in contemporary politics -- and its affect on real people's lives -- educating ourselves about the scope of what is unfolding is crucial.
One of my favorite ways to educate myself is to read up.
So here goes: some of the most engaging, interesting, and nuanced writing on reproductive rights, particularly as they intersect with politics. I may add to this throughout the day, and I encourage you to make your own suggestions to me (including reads you believe I may disagree with!). Take an afternoon, or ten, and dive in. See what you think.
- "Birthright." Jill Lepore, The New Yorker. See also Lepore's interview on NPR's "Fresh Air": "How Birth Control and Abortion Became Politicized".
- "Teaching Good Sex." Laurie Abraham, The New York Times
- "Nursing Grudges: Why Do We Only Protest the Moral Convictions of Some Health Workers?" Dahlia Lithwick, Slate.
- The incomparable Scarleteen: an exhaustive site on "sex ed for the real world"
- "The Next Front in the Abortion Wars: Birth Control." Irin Carmon, Salon.
- "Family Planning - A Special and Urgent Concern." Martin Luther King, Jr., 1965.
- Gorgeous art posters on reproductive rights that take a "people's history" slant
- "Lucky Girl." Bridget Potter, Guernica.
- "Listening Beyond Life and Choice." Frances Kissling featured on PRI's "On Being" with Krista Tippett. Kissling is the former head of Catholics for Choice.
Supreme Court Decisions:
- Griswold v. Connecticut (1965), which established the constitutional right to privacy. It struck down a Connecticut state law that prohibited birth control even for married couples.
- Roe v. Wade (1971), which was decided simultaneously with Doe v. Bolton to uphold the right to privacy under the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.
- "Interview: Sarah Weddington." TIME interviews the 26-year-old lawyer who argued in the Roe. v. Wade case before the Supreme Court. Martha Burk also interviews Weddington for the PRX show "Equal Time with Martha Burk."
- The Means of Reproduction: Sex, Power, and the Future of the World - Michelle Goldberg. See also my interview with Goldberg here.
- Killing the Black Body: Race, Reproduction, and the Meaning of Liberty - Dorothy Roberts
- In Our Time: Memoir of a Revolution - Susan Brownmiller
- S.E.X: The All-You-Need-To-Know Progressive Sexuality Guide to Get You Through High School and College - Heather Corinna
- Our Bodies, Ourselves - Boston Women's Health Book Collective
- 37 Years of Roe v. Wade: Winter, Discontent
- 36 Years of Roe v. Wade: In Thanks
- Say You Want Revolution