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Politics of Reproductive Rights in 20th-Century America

Summary and Keywords

The reproductive experiences of women and girls in the 20th-century United States followed historical patterns shaped by the politics of race and class. Laws and policies governing reproduction generally regarded white women as legitimate reproducers and potentially fit mothers and defined women of color as unfit for reproduction and motherhood; regulations provided for rewards and punishments accordingly. In addition, public policy and public rhetoric defined “population control” as the solution to a variety of social and political problems in the United States, including poverty, immigration, the “quality” of the population, environmental degradation, and “overpopulation.” Throughout the century, nonetheless, women, communities of color, and impoverished persons challenged official efforts, at times reducing or even eliminating barriers to reproductive freedom and community survival.

Between 1900 and 1930, decades marked by increasing urbanization, industrialization, and immigration, eugenic fears of “race suicide” (concerns that white women were not having enough babies) fueled a reproductive control regime that pressured middle-class white women to reproduce robustly. At the same time, the state enacted anti-immigrant laws, undermined the integrity of Native families, and protected various forms of racial segregation and white supremacy, all of which attacked the reproductive dignity of millions of women. Also in these decades, many African American women escaped the brutal and sexually predatory Jim Crow culture of the South, and middle-class white women gained greater sexual freedom and access to reproductive health care, including contraceptive services.

During the Great Depression, the government devised the Aid to Dependent Children program to provide destitute “worthy” white mothers with government aid while often denying such supports to women of color forced to subordinate their motherhood to agricultural and domestic labor. Following World War II, as the Civil Rights movement gathered form, focus, and adherents, and as African American and other women of color claimed their rights to motherhood and social provision, white policymakers railed against “welfare queens” and defined motherhood as a class privilege, suitable only for those who could afford to give their children “advantages.” The state, invoking the “population bomb,” fought to reduce the birth rates of poor women and women of color through sterilization and mandatory contraception, among other strategies. Between 1960 and 1980, white feminists employed the consumerist language of “choice” as part of the campaign for legalized abortion, even as Native, black, Latina, immigrant, and poor women struggled to secure the right to give birth to and raise their children with dignity and safety. The last decades of the 20th century saw severe cuts in social programs designed to aid low-income mothers and their children, cuts to funding for public education and housing, court decisions that dramatically reduced poor women’s access to reproductive health care including abortion, and the emergence of a powerful, often violent, anti-abortion movement. In response, in 1994 a group of women of color activists articulated the theory of reproductive justice, splicing together “social justice” and “reproductive rights.” The resulting Reproductive Justice movement, which would become increasingly influential in the 21st century, defined reproductive health, rights, and justice as human rights due to all persons and articulated what each individual requires to achieve these rights: the right not to have children, the right to have children, and the right to the social, economic, and environmental conditions necessary to raise children in healthy, peaceful, and sustainable households and communities.

Keywords: reproductive rights, birth control, abortion, sterilization, racism, reproduction, eugenics, women, justice, reproductive politics, population control

Reproductive politics reveals some of the ways in which “the public” and “the private” have continuously penetrated each other to shape lives in the United States; neither sphere has existed separately from the other, as this account of the politics of fertility and reproduction in the 20th century shows. Indeed, reproductive politics continued to depend on and foreground official and popular efforts to sexualize race and racialize sex, processes that assigned variable value to the reproductive capacity—and children—of different groups of women and also underwrote public policies to reward or punish their reproductive activity accordingly. Thus, what we have here is not a single story. Nevertheless, a history of reproductive politics in the 20th century that holds race and class at its center has this unifying element: it shows how the value generally associated with white women’s reproduction fundamentally depended on the assessment of the reproductive capacity of poor women and women of color as a burden, if not an outright threat. Thus, this history does have a synergistic unity.

In the United States, the salience of sex, fertility, and reproduction to white settlement, Native survival, the slavery regime, and nation building ensured that women’s fertile bodies were treated as a key national resource or, conversely, a threat to the body politic: for populating the continent, providing labor and armies, building and sustaining white supremacy, and defining (and limiting) citizenship. These imperatives continued to structure reproductive politics in the 20th century, even as politicians and policymakers modernized demographic aims and population-control strategies over time. Most important, after 1900, updated population-control strategies, some pro-natalist, some anti-natalist, depended on eugenics, a “science” that sought to perfect the human race through selective breeding.

20th-century reproductive politics clarified the basic fact that reproduction is not only a biological event but also a social and political event that takes place within a family, a community, and a nation. Each of these structures lays down layers of conditions for sex, pregnancy, childbirth, maternity, and family. Within each, crucial resources are variously available, offered, withheld, or simply absent, rendering reproductive activities more or less possible and practical for members of various populations. Further, in the United States as in other countries, government officials and community authorities have historically constructed layers of conditions governing sex, reproduction, and maternity so as to solve social, economic, political, and moral problems.1 For example, in the first years of the 20th century, President Theodore Roosevelt, worrying about the “quality” of the population, inveighed against “race suicide” and urged white women to reproduce enough babies to maintain the United States as a “white country.” Politicians and policymakers in the mid-20th century called for limiting African American reproduction as a way of ending poverty and defusing the so-called population bomb, a concept that both reflected and evoked a vision of the United States as a “white nation” that had to be protected against excessive breeding by “non-whites.” Parents and community authorities invented adoption as a mass solution for hiding the unchastity of young, unmarried white girls and women who gave birth in the 1940s through the 1960s.

For the last third of the 20th century, politicians and policymakers pursued demographic and other policy goals by shining a bright spotlight on the sexual and reproductive “choices” of individual girls and women of certain groups. This focus justified racialized programs that blamed and rewarded individuals for sexual conduct and reproductive outcomes. The focus on personal “choice” almost totally eclipsed attention to the ways in which large structural features of society affected the reproductive lives of individuals and groups. These features included racism, poverty and wealth, environmental degradation, police violence, and other factors.

Reproductive Politics, 1900–1930

At the turn of the 20th century, all women, no matter the particular value assigned to their reproductive bodies, occupied a status inferior to full citizens. As always, girls and women tried to control their fertility in secret, despite new 19th-century laws criminalizing abortion and contraception. Throughout the 20th century, groups of women constructed platforms to voice their views publicly, creating venues for claiming that women’s rights, including their right to reproductive health and self-determination, were human rights.

In 1900, girls and women were born into formerly enslaved, immigrant, Native, and male-dominant families that had, within memory, experienced the substantial power of the law and social institutions to shape reproduction and family life. Bringing these challenging family memories into the 20th century, most girls and women faced their own sexuality and fertility in an intensely dynamic social and political context characterized by unprecedented rates of urbanization, industrialization, and immigration; after 1920, more people in the United States lived in cities than in rural areas for the first time. These processes provoked substantial economic, cultural, demographic, and political transformations that, in turn, stimulated new power struggles over women’s bodies and their fertility. These struggles revolved around questions regarding the country’s insatiable need for labor and debates over accepting immigrants, persons of color, and women as full American citizens; they included fierce disagreements concerning the meaning and the look of a democratic society. All of these debates implicated questions about reproduction and value, and pointed to the importance of managing female behavior and fertility to achieve particular social and political goals. Struggles over these matters focused on how authorities might respond to new populations of young women living in cities away from their families, and on how to regulate their working conditions in the burgeoning urban environment where many also earned a new degree of economic independence and claimed a new degree of cultural boldness. In the first three decades of the century, cities provided opportunities to obtain contraceptive services and illegal abortions and participate in other sex-related activities, as well as public demonstrations for women’s rights.2 Official responses to these developments revealed the extent of political and cultural anxieties heightened by women’s greater social and sexual independence in the atomized, often dangerous city.3

Progressive Era reformers sought to protect working women by building new institutions, such as homes for “wayward girls,” passing legislation such as the Mann Act to curb prostitution, and launching sex-education campaigns. Northern feminist reformers created the Children’s Bureau in 1912, a federal agency dedicated to the reduction of infant mortality, and promoted passage of the Sheppard-Towner Act in 1921, legislation that provided federal funding for programs to reduce infant and maternal mortality. These efforts brought the bodies and behaviors of white poor and working-class young women under more public scrutiny than ever, often with a tight focus on their sexuality and its reproductive consequences.4 Law enforcers pushed sexualized female bodies into public view, sometimes while raiding a contraception clinic or triggering a sensationalized abortion trial or delinquency proceeding. In these same decades, whites of all classes publicly degraded African American women by associating them with sexual impropriety, while members of the growing cohort of white, urban, middle-class women could purchase sexual and reproductive dignity and privacy. A woman with resources could pay for a private doctor to help her with reproductive matters, and she was more likely to have access to a private bathroom at home where she could insert a pessary and wash after coitus, for example. Increasingly, access to privacy in many forms, perhaps especially regarding sex and reproduction, became a hallmark of middle-class status and its absence a mark of degradation.5

Partly in response to urban women’s independence, and purchase of privacy “rights,” some judges and juries refused to convict people for the possession or circulation of “smut” (a category that included contraceptive devices and information about contraception and abortion), a violation of the 1873 Comstock Law that criminalized the circulation of “obscenity” through the U.S. postal system. When authorities refused to convict, they tacitly affirmed, case by case, that controlling fertility was a private matter, even while the courtroom presented women’s sexual and reproductive bodies for public consumption.6

In a challenge to the Comstock Law and similar measures, Margaret Sanger, the most prominent American advocate of contraception in the first half of the 20th century, made two arguments supporting birth control; first, that for women to be emancipated (that is, not enslaved by their reproductive capacity), they needed to be able to control their reproduction. Second, she maintained that if poor women, immigrants, and African Americans possessed the means to control their reproduction, the United States would be a stronger, implicitly whiter, more “eugenic” country.

In the 1910s, Sanger was arrested several times for flouting the Comstock Law, leading demonstrations and distributing information about contraception, and for opening “birth control” clinics. Over time, however, she gathered a widening circle of Progressive Era colleagues and champions who joined the birth-control cause for a number of reasons. Many were devoted to rational, efficient, eugenic-minded solutions to social ills, believing that national strength depended on the health of the populace and that contraception could contribute to that goal. Unlike Sanger, most birth-control activists did not speak about contraception as a “women’s rights” issue. Leading public feminists, in fact, mostly refused to address such a controversial issue at all, but focused instead on winning women’s right to vote.7

Indeed, in these decades, various groups disagreed vehemently about whether sex and reproduction should be separable. Slowly, white women’s clubs began to pass resolutions supporting birth control, while the Catholic Church opposed its use, and others claimed that access to contraception would make prostitutes of all women. Black nationalist Marcus Garvey urged African American women to eschew it in favor of having more babies to build the movement. Maternalists championed public policies promoting “better,” not fewer, children.8

But Sanger’s strong, persistent leadership, along with her successful working relationships with physicians and others who embraced eugenics, led to widespread support for contraception and endorsements from many Jewish and Protestant organizations. Sanger also built organizations that evolved over time into the Planned Parenthood Federation. But most important, the social and demographic changes taking place in the first third of the 20th century (including the Great Depression, when millions of women felt they simply could not afford to feed another child) stimulated support for using the law and public policy to help families control their size.9

In addition, the hardening of “Jim Crow” laws in the South after 1880 established a regime that invited educational, political, recreational, medical, carceral, and other institutions to compensate for the loss of slavery by enforcing apartheid labor, housing laws, and other practices strengthening white supremacy. Apartheid policies criminalized interracial sex and procreation and used the “science” of eugenics as justification to fix definitions of “race” and to set white people and their children apart as comparatively noble and valuable.10

Native Americans were also targeted for reproductive injustices in the Jim Crow era as thousands of Indian children continued to be taken from their parents and communities and enrolled in faraway schools that would teach them how to be “real” Americans. This practice persisted even after the federal government promised to end it in 1893. So eager were federal authorities to extinguish Native culture and teach Indian children to be “white,” that the practice even occurred—if in diminished numbers—up to and even past the signing of the United Nations Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide (1948) that defined genocide as including the act of “[f]orcibly transferring children of the [target] group to another group.”11

Laws regulating women’s reproductive bodies were also crucial to maintaining gender apartheid by separating men and women workers and enforcing distinctions between the dignity and indignity of different groups of women. Most famously, the Supreme Court decision Muller v. Oregon (1908) justified the regulation of women’s work on the grounds that female reproductive capacity defined womanhood. Muller justified the subordination of a woman’s individual rights to her potential motherhood and family duties and limited her activities beyond these spheres. Thus, prevailing labor practices restricted the jobs women could hold and the hours they could work, which justified lower wages. These laws were “for the benefit of all.” They protected the reproducing body of the working woman, an “object of public interest,” the potential source of “vigorous offspring” for the nation. Women of color, typically hired as agricultural or domestic laborers, with offspring not imagined as valuable future citizens, were neither protected nor targeted by Muller. And middle-class women, who were not imagined as workers—and the value of whose children was assumed—lived beyond the reach of Muller.12

In the early 20th century, massive immigration and social mobility in urban America made distinctions among groups harder to detect and enforce. But reproductive law, policy, and prominent social theorists helped preserve distinctions by protecting and reifying the concept of social hierarchies. Henry Goddard (1866–1957), a psychologist and eugenicist, exhorted elites to support the reproduction of “the fit” and “hunt out [the others] in every possible place and take care of them, and see to it that they do not propagate,” presumably a call for sterilizing the “unfit”—in his mind, people of color, the poor, and the ill. Goddard claimed that only his prescription could make the United States into a powerful country, dedicated to nurturing “the best examples” and eradicating “negative expressions” of human life (II/14). Only the newest most modern, scientific approaches, such as the Intelligence Quotient (IQ) test, could allow experts to identify the ten million Americans alleged to be unfit to reproduce. Only reproduction under the knowledgeable guidance of eugenicists would protect America from race suicide, even if coercive interventions meant rejecting core principles of democracy.13

Many physicians led these efforts, approving legalized sterilization of whomever a state defined as unfit to reproduce; Indiana passed the first such law in 1907. It designated a roster composed of criminals, idiots, rapists, and imbeciles in state custody for sterilization, all individuals bearing conditions then considered to be inherited and transmissible to the next generation. Such laws, again, cast the bodies of some citizens as public business and defined individuals and groups as undeserving of the privacy increasingly demanded by the white middle class.

Buck v. Bell (1927), one of the Supreme Court’s most infamous decisions, endorsed the eugenic strategies of many Progressive Era reformers when the court affirmed the right of the state to sterilize an impoverished young white woman, Carrie Buck, because a physician deemed her “socially inadequate.” With Buck, the government gained the right to define some persons as inferior to others and to impose reproductive constraints on those so defined. Reproductive privacy in 20th century America was, indeed, a restricted, hierarchically bestowed privilege.14

Immigration laws served as tools for shaping the “complexion” of the nation, as they do now. In the first decades of the 20th century, eugenicists worked with Congress to pass anti-miscegenation laws (prohibiting marriage across races), segregation laws, naturalization laws, and new immigration laws, all designed to clarify the definition of whiteness, which, in an era of uncontrolled immigration from Mexico, Ireland, Russia, and elsewhere, had become a blurry status. Eugenic nativists targeted Mexicans in the U.S. southwest as a main source of this problem.15

The most ambitious and effective accomplishment of the Eugenics Committee of the United States of America was the National Origins Act of 1924, usually known more simply as the Immigration Act. The Act severely reduced “non-Nordic” immigrants, specifically Chinese and other Asians, and was in force until 1952. Earlier laws had encouraged Chinese men to immigrate as laborers in the late 19th and early 20th centuries but forbade the immigration of Chinese wives and children. In 1920, only 12.6 percent of Chinese immigrants were female. With anti-miscegenation laws in force, Chinese men were practically and legally denied female sexual partners and the opportunity to reproduce. All in all, the restrictions enforced by the 1924 National Origins Act exercised an enormous impact on the color and ethnic origins of babies born in the United States far into the future. The whole rafter of eugenic, nativist laws prescribed whom a person could marry and have children with, and set ethnic and racial qualifications for citizenship.16

Reproductive Politics, 1930–1960

Government officials and policymakers used women’s fertile bodies to manage overlapping crises associated with the Great Depression (1929–1942), World War II and its aftermath (1941–1950s), and the emergence of the Civil Rights movement and subsequent white backlash (1950s–1960). In this period we again see how the “public” penetrated the so-called private sphere, so that women made reproductive decisions within the constraining or welcoming framework of existing laws, public policies, and political agendas. Politicians and policymakers, along with courts, have tried to manage the reproductive capacity of various groups of women differently while affirming white male supremacy. Finally, reproductive politics in this era of multiple, overlapping crises shows how elites have consistently used reproductive law and policy to define citizenship and nationhood and to solve major problems confronting society.

During the grim years of the Great Depression, most fertile, sexually active, heterosexual women picked their way through complicated terrain, seeking contraception wherever they could find it. Girls and women in every region of the country spent precious coins transacting, often in secret, to purchase “preventatives” from strangers, including drugstore and five-and-dime store clerks, house-to-house peddlers, and charlatans who placed ads for placebos in women’s magazine and catalogs. These new products of varying degrees of effectiveness brought enormous profits to manufacturers during this period, estimated as $350 million a year in the mid-1930s. Such market-driven transactions allowed many women who did not have middle-class entitlements to grasp some new degree of privacy in managing their reproductive lives.17

Thousands of women also began to obtain birth control and get advice from trained experts in urban clinics that cropped up around the country, outgrowths of and modeled on Margaret Sanger’s organizational efforts.18 In 1934, the typical patient at one New York clinic was thirty years old, the wife of a laborer in the manufacturing trades, a working-class woman with a husband and some steady income. Between 1932 and 1937, the number of birth-control clinics in the United States increased from 145 to 357, including a few run by African Americans in segregated or underserved locales.19

Many African American women were especially motivated to manage their fertility because their families suffered most during the Great Depression. Even when African Americans could find work in government programs such as the Works Progress Administration, the jobs were generally segregated and paid blacks less than whites. Wives frequently had to find employment to supplement the scant earnings of their husbands; another pregnancy could mean job loss and economic disaster for the family.20 In addition, many African American women associated the use of contraception with racial pride and autonomy and saw it as a rational response to economic hardship. Many received decent care and a new degree of personal privacy at neighborhood clinics. Further, women of color used contraception to protect themselves against government programs that supported “eugenic sterilizations” in poor communities to reduce the cost of relief programs. Still, the lingering impact of the 1873 Comstock Law, the expense of private doctors, the lack of clinics in many communities, crowded housing situations, plus shared bathrooms or outhouse facilities and lack of running water made contraception elusive for many.21

Nevertheless, many African American women used some method of birth control. Indeed, demographic data suggest that African American women may have exercised greater control over their fertility than white women did. Between 1880 and 1940, the number of children born to African American women declined by 60 percent, from 7.5 to 3.0, while the number born to white women declined by slightly more than 50 percent, from 4.4 to 2.1.22

These declines also reflected the fact that many girls and women defied state anti-abortion laws in cities and towns across the country. Practitioners who performed abortions day in and day out knew their craft and provided clean, safe procedures (even in this era before antibiotics); many performed hundreds or thousands of abortions for women who simply could not manage another pregnancy or another child. Municipal authorities generally treated these skilled men and women as public-health assets, “valuable colleagues” for physicians who needed somewhere to send their patients with unwanted pregnancies in the 1930s. Up to one million abortions a year were carried out in the 1930s, representing between 25 to 40 percent of all pregnancies. According to a respected study, 28 percent of African American women admitted to having had one or more abortions at this time. When women had money to pay for abortions, the outcomes were dependable: 91 percent of doctor-performed illegal abortions and 86 percent of midwife-performed illegal abortions were free of complications.23

Today support for legal abortion often cites the dangers presented by so-called back-alley butchers in the illegal era. But the gravest danger women faced then came from the law, which demanded women’s alienation from their bodies (a condition of enslavement) and also demanded that women be frightened and shamed for needing to manage their reproductive lives. The second gravest danger was a lack of money and a lack of information, factors that caused some women to pay untrained persons for the procedure and led many girls and women to try to abort their own pregnancies; both actions expressed a grave lack of resources, combined with incredible desperation and determined resistance. Both resulted in high rates of harm and even death.24 Self-induced abortion proved especially perilous; about 76 percent of these led to complications. A few physicians around the country protested anti-abortion laws during the Depression, pointing to their effect on women’s health, safety, and dignity. Most, however, focused their objections on the villainous “back-alley butcher,” although they knew that “abortion wards” in hospitals were largely filled with desperate women who had used knitting needles, chemicals, and other hopeless techniques on their own bodies.25

Court decisions in the 1930s, along with women’s broad use of contraception and abortion, helped to lay groundwork for the legalization of contraception (1965) and later of abortion (1973).26 A ruling that decriminalized the sending of information about contraception through the mail and another that loosened conditions under which contraceptives could be legally distributed opened up access to and personal decision making about birth control. A third decision, United States v. One Package of Japanese Pessaries (1936), this one handed down by the U.S. Court of Appeals, exempted physicians from legal restrictions on the importation, circulation, and distribution of contraception, ruling that there was nothing obscene about a doctor’s prescription for contraception, even in the absence of a medical justification. The ruling voided federal but not state bans, and most helped women who had the resources to pay for a private doctor.27

In 1937, the American Medical Association endorsed birth control as “a proper medical practice,” in response to the national prominence and popularity of eugenics, to women’s willingness to break the law to meet their needs, and to the new role of individualism in modern life, expressed in part by women’s growing role as consumers making everyday, personal choices in the marketplace. But President Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt, members of the administration, and other politicians refused to mention the issue of female birth control in public, even while the federal government included male condoms on its list of “approved prophylactics.” For its part, the Catholic Church continued to condemn all methods of controlling fertility except the “rhythm method”—deemed “natural”—which the church approved in 1929 and promoted in part through the distribution of calendars for determining “safe” periods for coitus.28

In the midst of the economic depression, the president did get Congress to pass the kind of welfare legislation that other industrializing countries had adopted decades earlier. The Aid to Dependent Children program (ADC), part of the Social Security Act of 1935, had powerful effects on the reproductive lives of millions of women. It provided small cash grants to mostly white children whose mothers were divorced, widowed, or deserted—mothers who had, in other words, once had a legitimate relationship to a man. In this manner, the state established such mothers as morally pure, fit for motherhood, producers of valuable future citizens, and deserving to be protected from the need to work for wages. Destitute unwed mothers and most mothers of color, immoral by definition, undeserving, and unfit for motherhood—but appropriate and required for labor—were either excluded from aid or given lesser benefits. Mothers of color could generally find work only within the apartheid labor system as agricultural or domestic workers, categories excluded from Social Security benefits.29

Mexican immigrants were generally also excluded from government benefits in the 1930s, and thousands were deported. Many had been born in the United States, which made their deportations unconstitutional. Officials justified the program as necessary due to the “costs of Mexican fertility.” Forced and coerced deportation undoubtedly harmed the reproductive health of deported Mexican women as they were forced to leave their health-care and support systems behind. Their journeys to Mexico and relocation often entailed hunger, lack of sanitation and shelter, violence, and other hardships that interrupted breastfeeding and terminated health care. Once “repatriated” in Mexico (many had never lived in that country and did not speak Spanish), women experienced high rates of self-induced abortion, low birth-weight babies, high death rates, delayed marriages, and postponed childbearing.30

Many white Americans supported Mexican repatriation and other policies promoting selective, racialized population control as strategies for solving the economic crisis. These policies drew on the ideas of and also became models for totalitarian policymakers in Europe interested in stamping out “mixed race” sex and reproduction and willing to trample on intimate, personal liberties in the name of “the public good” and national strength.31 Support for racialist population and reproductive policies in the 1930s functioned in the United States both as commentary on the unfitness for reproduction of poor women and as critiques of New Deal programs developed to help them. This is evident in the emergence of the term “relief babies,” used to describe the poor and their children as unworthy of aid and a drain on the public coffers.32

At the same time, supporters valorized middle-class white reproduction.33

Women’s reproductive lives, so stressed during the Great Depression, continued to be a source of strain as contraceptive methods remained unreliable and often inaccessible—and abortion remained illegal—during World War II, when millions of women had to work while husbands and fathers served the military. Yet steady employment was hard to maintain while pregnant, nursing, and mothering, especially given the insufficient number of child-care programs for working mothers.34

In 1942, the Birth Control Federation of America became Planned Parenthood; the organization refreshed its focus in wartime to define contraception as an important ingredient in producing “healthy children [to] maintain the kind of peace for which we fight.” Around the same time, the National Council of Negro Women established the Committee on Family Planning, and prominent African American leaders such as sociologist E. Franklin Frazier argued that contraception did not substitute for a job and a good wage, but was, nevertheless, important to families of all classes. Over time, Planned Parenthood began to recommend parenthood as a class privilege for adults who could afford it, foreshadowing arguments later in the century that justified terminating public assistance for poor mothers and their children.35 Many Americans rejected Planned Parenthood’s support of contraception altogether, warning that it would weaken the nation, promote women’s pleasure not procreation, and undermine [white] women’s feminine identity, willingness to fulfill their natural roles, and their psychological well-being.36

Consistent with the concern to shore up traditional gender roles, police departments and district attorneys began to conduct sensational raids after the war on the offices of abortion practitioners who served largely white women. That they raided abortion providers without having received reports of harm or death represented a complete break with past law-enforcement practices. Now even for women who could purchase decent care from newly targeted practitioners, the law was clearly the gravest danger they faced. As women continued their Depression-era acts of insubordination, resisting coercive childbearing by obtaining abortions, probably at the rate of one million a year in the 1940s, some found their pictures in the morning papers, as newspapers covered the raids, arrests, and courtroom proceedings using salacious language and large photographs. This coverage functioned to warn all women that violating gender norms and feminine imperatives would result in punishment. Indeed, during these trials of abortion providers, female patients were typically accused of “murdering motherhood,” not unborn babies.37 Notably, white women were the targets of these police and journalistic activities, demonstrating that women of color, their bodies, fertility, and femininity did not merit public concern or legal attention.

Women’s growing role in the labor force during and after the war also challenged traditional gender roles despite cultural and legislative efforts to reinforce them. By the early 1950s, many women returned to the workforce, but even more had never left at all. One-third of African American married women with children under six years old and more than 50 percent of those with children between six and seventeen had jobs, most out of economic necessity, a far higher percentage than among white mothers, whose labor force participation also increased. Yet state laws limited the employment of pregnant women and those who had recently given birth, regulations in the tradition of Muller v. Oregon that tightly tied reproduction to female economic dependency.38

Racialized cultural imperatives defining reproduction continued to prevail in the postwar era. Commentators urged white women to reproduce frequently for “the greatest democracy the world has known,” and to contribute to the robust consumer-based expansion of the free market. In exchange for having children, white families would be rewarded with tax credits, easy mortgages, and other family-building supports.39 Mainstream psychiatrists and psychologists typically diagnosed white women who worked and those who took steps to limit their fertility as perversely withholding the most valuable resource they could bestow upon their family, community, and nation.40

Immigrant women, women of color, and their families were largely denied these benefits, their offspring treated as “poor material” for citizenship and consumerism. The violent response among many whites to the Supreme Court’s school desegregation decision, Brown v. The Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas (1954), betrayed the virulence of white hostility to children of color and, by extension, to the women who gave birth to them. Immigrant women, as well as Native women, continued during the latter half of the century to struggle against coercive sterilization, anti-welfare, and assimilation initiatives that aimed to undermine their maternal legitimacy.41

The postwar era saw growing activism on behalf of human rights and civil rights, and some movement toward humane developments regarding the reproductive needs of women. Yet official controls on women’s fertility became harsher as women’s bodies became an increasingly politicized focal point of public attention and policy across the 1950s. As we have seen, the abortion trials threatened all (potentially) disobedient women. At the same time, community authorities, parents, and various experts pressed all unmarried white girls and women who got pregnant and stayed pregnant to hide during their pregnancies in maternity homes and elsewhere, and then to secretly and in shame surrender their babies for adoption to properly married white couples.

By contrast, unmarried girls and women of color who became pregnant were kicked out of school, thrown off of welfare rolls, and evicted from public housing. Many in Mississippi and other southern states were threatened with sterilization and incarceration if they produced another “illegitimate child.” Together, these racialized and disparate responses to single pregnancy provided possible “solutions” to a number of troubling social problems. A white daughter could hide her sexual experience, thereby preserving an image of virginity and her marriageability. By relinquishing the child, she could “repair” and obscure both her own unchastity and the infertility of a white woman at a time when infertile women felt particularly stigmatized. White legislators, policymakers, and community authorities responded to the single pregnancy of girls and women of color in ways that shored up racial distinctions at the dawn of the Civil Rights movement.42

The birth of an ongoing attack on public assistance or “welfare” became another expression of white hostility toward the Civil Rights movement and its demands for dignity and full citizenship for African Americans. Many white politicians and private citizens charged public assistance with “paying” poor women of color to bear more children. “Unfit” mothers of “unfit” children were styled as “welfare queens” who used the taxes of hard-working whites to finance promiscuity, sloth, and unearned luxuries. In fact, women of color were routinely denied ADC benefits, especially in the South, and also the right to bear and care for their own children. In the 1940s and beyond in Louisiana, for example, no African American woman could get assistance if cotton growers needed her labor in the fields. Mothering one’s own children, a foundational reproductive right, continued to be constructed as a privilege of race.

White politicians and others charged that African Americans were sexually voracious opportunists who procreated only in order to collect welfare, not to satisfy the kind of maternal instinct possessed by white women. Politicians used these arguments to bolster school segregation and restrictive public-housing campaigns, programs to enforce sterilization and other fertility restrictions, and policies designed to reduce welfare eligibility.43 In sum, attacks on the reproductive lives of poor women of color amounted to one of many major efforts to thwart the aims of the Civil Rights movement. These policies, programs, and outright attacks rendered the sexual and reproductive bodies of women of color and of all women increasingly visible and politically consequential in the postwar United States. Paradoxically, the Civil Rights movement articulated the dignity of persons whose lives then became key public-policy symbols of unbearable equality for decades to come.44

At the end of the 1950s, the so-called population bomb put the spotlight on women’s fertile bodies; experts claimed that women, particularly poor women of color, were excessively fertile. If their fertility was not curbed, their children would become juvenile delinquents, destroy American cities, exacerbate poverty and racial tensions, and generally destroy the country’s democratic fabric. Once again, the fertile bodies of women of color were cast as destructive compared to the bodies of white women on whose fertility the health of the country depended.45

Reproductive Politics, 1960–1980

The 1960s opened with the first commercial distribution of the birth-control pill, and the 1980s closed with the Supreme Court decision Harris v. McRae, affirming the federal government’s right to withhold funding for the abortions of indigent women. Throughout this twenty-year span, the legislative agenda of President Lyndon B. Johnson and subsequent administrations put the sexuality and fertility of women of color at the heart of debates about the most pressing issues facing the United States, including civil rights, racial equality, poverty and welfare, urban decay, crime, citizenship qualifications, women’s status, the “population bomb,” communism, and foreign aid. Political rhetoric regarding the sources of poverty generally ignored the impact of the apartheid labor system, inadequate public education in poor communities, the lack of quality nutrition and medical care, and the many costs—including emotional and psychological—of the U.S. war in Vietnam. Successive administrations pointed with increasing hostility to the fertility of women of color and their costly, “unwanted” babies. President Johnson argued that reducing the fertility of this population would cut welfare costs; few politicians at the time associated the issue with women’s rights.46

In the same years, however, civil- and human-rights campaigns led by women began to define women’s oppression as well as liberation as rooted in their sexuality and fertility. The National Welfare Rights Organization (1966–1975), a forerunner of today’s Reproductive Justice movement that women of color formed in the 1990s to correct the reproductive-rights movement’s narrow focus on abortion and “choice,” dramatically expanded the meaning of reproductive rights by insisting on the rights of poor women to bear and care for their own children. NWRO members maintained that motherhood qualified them as citizens to receive public assistance, including Aid to Dependent Children. The organization particularly underscored the relationship between welfare rights and reproductive rights. Members attacked man-in-the-house rules by which welfare workers surveilled the homes of welfare recipients, looking for evidence of a male cohabitant who could be held responsible for supporting the household. They protested family caps (state policies limiting benefits to a woman who, while receiving public assistance, gives birth to another baby), housing restrictions, and punishments for pregnancy. They also vigorously protested the increasingly popular idea among middle-class people in the United States that sex, pregnancy, and motherhood were privileges not rights.47

White women’s-rights groups focused generally on the right not to be pregnant. They began to hold “abortion speak-outs,” where individuals described their personal experiences. Grassroots groups organized, demonstrated, and lobbied for legal, accessible contraception. Individual girls and women expressed a new degree of self-determination by pressing their doctors to give them prescriptions of birth-control pills, whether married or not. Some groups taught self-induced abortion techniques, and the Jane Collective in Chicago provided abortion referrals to doctors and trained lay practitioners. The Society for Humane Abortion in California and other organizations spoke out about the importance of women’s personal reproductive autonomy for women’s liberation from patriarchy.48

Only in the Catholic Church did the issue of birth-control use eclipse race and class; the church opposed the oral contraceptive for all, equally. Demographers, economists, and politicians saw the pill as the solution to overpopulation and poverty, a tool for solving the global and national problem of hunger, and a strategy for defusing the allure of Communism. Government programs urged black women to take the pill as their “duty,” not their choice. A few years later, experts would present the IUD (available in 1968) as especially appropriate for poor women, who, assumed to be irresponsible, would be spared any choice making after the device was inserted.49

Throughout the 1960s, journalists, academics, and psychologists championed the pill for whites as a route to more pleasurable, less perilous sex in the era of the “sexual revolution.” This call dissolved the relationship between ideal white womanhood and chastity, and suggested that modern middle-class white women could be rational pill-taking choice makers. Physicians, pharmaceutical companies, and frequently the media focused on profits the pill generated, too often ignoring women’s well-being and their rights.50 But in fact, use of the pill led millions of women to delay marriage and childbearing, to achieve new educational and employment opportunities, and to attain greater economic independence.51

Reflecting growing national commitments to contraception—by 1965, polls showed that 81 percent of all Americans and 78 percent of Catholics supported birth control—the Supreme Court began acting to legalize its use.52 In Griswold v. Connecticut (1965), it defined contraception as “within the zone of privacy created by several fundamental [constitutional] guarantees” and ruled against laws banning contraceptives for married couples.53 A second decision, Eisenstadt v. Baird (1972), affirmed the right of unmarried women to possess and use contraception and implicitly denied that birth control was a crime against female chastity.54

Technological innovations in this period focused on making contraception an attractive, easy, unself-conscious practice, and pharmaceutical companies sometimes paid insufficient attention to women’s dignity and safety in their rush to market.55 New products were generally tested—or later, dumped—on poor women in poor countries, where they sometimes caused significant harm. When the A. H. Robins Company had to stop marketing the Dalkon Shield IUD because of the damage it caused to women’s health in the United States, the company shipped two million leftover devices to seventy-five countries; many of the devices were unsterilized, and packages included only one inserter for every one thousand devices.56 In response to these and other practices, activist women insisted on public, government hearings that included women’s testimony. Their efforts led to new legislation to protect women’s health and included requiring manufacturers to provide information inserts in every package of birth control pills. The sometimes reckless corporate drive for profits from contraception stimulated the birth of the women’s-health and consumer-rights movements.57

As the Civil Rights movement gathered intensity in the 1960s, policymakers focused on two overlapping reproduction-related policy concerns: the “population bomb” and the so-called culture of poverty. The latter was a sociological theory positing that poor people were poor simply because they lacked the kind of civilizing cultural traditions and practices that other groups possessed, while simultaneously ascribing poverty to the poor choices of poor people, particularly those pertaining to reproduction. As such, culture of poverty proponents counseled that the best way for poor people to extract themselves from poverty was through reproductive control.

Daniel Patrick Moynihan’s 1965 report for President Johnson, “The Negro Family: The Case for National Action,” diagnosed poverty as caused by African American female insubordination, blaming the most powerless group in the country, poor women, for the economic results of generations of racist and capitalist exploitation. Moynihan’s influential report resonated with the interests of those who supported population-control programs that aimed to reduce “dependency” by “birth prevention.”58 Ultimately, in the second half of the 1960s, under federal guidance, most states pressed family-planning programs on recipients of public assistance, even while the evidence shows that, like other women, poor African Americans were eager to manage their fertility on their own terms.

Population controllers employed the new Medicaid program to pay for and sometimes coerce sterilizations of poor women of color in public hospitals. At the same time, white women had to meet extremely stringent reproduction quotas before doctors would agree to perform tubal ligations or hysterectomies on them. Sterilization of women of color had been a longtime feature of reproductive policies and practices in the United States; between 1930 and 1970, more than 7,600 mostly poor persons, disproportionately women and persons of color, were sterilized by the state of North Carolina. By 1970, as many as 25 percent of Native American women fifteen to forty-four years old had been sterilized; other women of color had also been targeted. But the civil-rights–era sterilization programs gained greater visibility and gave rise to the Committee to End Sterilization Abuse (CESA) and other organizations opposed to coercive sterilization.59

One group of Mexican-origin women were sterilized at Los Angeles County Hospital in the 1960s and 1970s by physicians who assumed, inaccurately, that they were welfare recipients. The women were subjected to sterilization surgery without receiving full information about the procedure and its consequences. Chicana activists who sued the hospital did not win their case against the doctors but did promote informed consent policies that would become standard.60 Their work was part of a larger effort against sterilization abuse, which ultimately pressed the U.S. Department of Health, Education, and Welfare to publish guidelines for sterilization procedures in 1972, including age minimums, rules governing consent, and guarantees that a woman would not lose welfare benefits if she refused sterilization. They also included mandatory waiting periods designed to provide women with time and space to decide whether they wanted to undergo permanent surgical sterilization. Yet, despite the guidelines, a 1976 government report disclosed that, between 1973 and 1976, Indian Health Service physicians were not following the federal sterilization regulations.61

Norplant and Depo-Provera, two new long-acting contraceptives, provided other ways for policymakers to limit the fertility of targeted women. But promoters of these contraceptives strongly denied that any racist assumptions or goals drove their methods and claimed that they were designed simply to reduce single motherhood, end poverty, and minimize the economic burdens facing American taxpayers. Yet programs that distributed Norplant and Depo-Provera did single out and target specific individuals and communities, even while many women chose and benefited from these contraceptive methods.62

In the 1970s, feminists within civil-rights and cultural-national movements struggled to gain support for individual reproductive autonomy within male-led organizations. Following the death of a Puerto Rican woman from a legal abortion in a New York city hospital in 1970, feminist members of the Young Lords Party, a Puerto Rican nationalist group based largely in New York and Chicago, called for “abortion under community control” and for health and cultural rights associated with reproduction and motherhood. Mainstream civil-rights organizations such as the NAACP and CORE also supported contraceptive rights and reproductive self-determination, and some activists defined procreation as a political activity and reproduction as a community-based matter of survival. Mary Crow Dog, a Lakota woman, explained that for her people, reproduction helped to compensate for the genocide against Native Americans. Black activist Angela Davis was one of the first to call for the right to reproduce.63

During the mid-1960s, a physician-led reform movement sought changes in abortion laws to permit the practice in cases of sexual violence, incest, and fetal abnormalities, and to protect the mother’s health. Activists, including the National Organization of Women (NOW), soon recognized, however, that such reforms had not significantly improved women’s access to legal abortion, and so by the end of the decade, many began calling for the complete repeal of laws that banned or restricted the practice. By the early 1970s, several states had repealed laws against abortion, and justifications for national legalization were multiple and complex. Some pointed out that hundreds of thousands of women obtained illegal abortions every year making the criminal law ineffective and diminishing respect for the law, generally. The anti-welfare and population-control movements supported decriminalization as a strategy for reducing the number of poor people. Grassroots feminist leaders together with supporters in the medical, legal, and religious communities all favored of decriminalization, but not all of the latter favored women’s rights.64

Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court decision that largely legalized abortion, was issued on January 22, 1973. The court’s majority based its decision on four constitutional principles: (1) women have a constitutional right to reproductive privacy, and any regulation of that right must be subject to “strict scrutiny,” the most stringent level of judicial review used by U.S. courts; (2) the government must remain neutral regarding a woman’s decision whether to have an abortion; (3) during the period before “viability” (the point at which the fetus is sufficiently developed to live outside of the woman’s body), the government may restrict abortion only in the interest of protecting the woman’s health; and (4) after “viability,” the government may prohibit abortion, but laws must make exceptions that permit abortion when necessary to protect a woman’s health or life. Roe v. Wade established a “trimester” concept of pregnancy: during the first three months of pregnancy, women have an unimpeded right to abortion; during the following two trimesters, a schedule of increasing restrictions apply, based on women’s health needs and the prospects of fetal viability.65

Roe also tied a woman’s access to abortion to her physician’s permission, demonstrating the court’s refusal to give women a fully guaranteed right or outright reproductive autonomy. Many legal experts and feminists were frustrated that the decision relied on the constitutional principle of privacy, not equal protection.66 On the other hand, many women of color objected then and later to the core concept of a “zone of privacy”—an arena that, as they explained, required resources to enter. In addition, Roe’s focus on “choice” masked the different economic, political, and environmental contexts—often characterized by choicelessness—in which women lived and still live their reproductive lives. Furthermore, they argued, Roe and its supporters did not consider or address the right of women to become and be mothers.67

The consequences of Roe were swift and many. Abortion ended about one-third of all pregnancies both before and after Roe, but now self-induced abortion ended, as did almost all abortion-related deaths.68 Birthrates declined dramatically for teenagers. Now many girls and women achieved more robust dignity and safety associated with both their pregnancies and childbirth, including better health, more predictable work lives, new educational goals, and more opportunities to achieve economic independence.69 After Roe, additional court decisions and legislation promoted the reproductive dignity of both women and men. Loving v. Virginia (1977) fully decriminalized interracial marriage and thus interracial sex and reproduction.70 The Pregnancy Discrimination Act (1978) decreed that “discrimination [in employment] on the basis of pregnancy, childbirth or related medical conditions constitutes unlawful sex discrimination.”71 In an unintended consequence of Roe, many unmarried white women decided that if they could decide whether to carry a pregnancy to term, surely they could decide whether to be the mother of the child they gave birth to, their marital status notwithstanding; thus, the rates of white single motherhood began to rise dramatically while the numbers of white, domestic adoption plummeted—by 63 percent between 1970 and 1975.72

Roe gave rise to two profoundly consequential and linked outcomes. First was the emergence of the anti-abortion movement, an entity that had not existed earlier despite the substantial number of abortions performed in the pre-Roe era. The movement was fueled by religious objection to ending fetal life and also by opposition to women’s more complex roles in contemporary America.73 Roe like Brown unleashed a violent backlash. In 1977 a Planned Parenthood clinic in Saint Paul, Minnesota, was the first target of arson. Between 1977 and 1988, abortion providers reported 42 arson attacks, 37 attempted bomb and arson attacks, 216 bomb threats, and many death threats, pieces of hate mail, and incidents of vandalism. The movement also focused on electing anti-abortion legislators, passing legislation to block funding for abortion, and—among other restrictions—mandating the consent of a husband, parent, or judge. By 1977 most public and private hospitals did not permit abortions, which were now largely performed in free-standing clinics, where they became key targets for protests and violence.74

The other profoundly consequential outcome of Roe was the Hyde Amendment (actually a rider attached each year to appropriation bills). While many Republicans in Congress supported legal abortion in the 1970s, Rep. Henry Hyde (R-IL) opposed abortion on religious grounds. He aimed to minimize access to abortion by ensuring, first, that poor women could not use Medicaid funds for the procedure. As Hyde predicted, once this group’s access was restricted, restrictions on other groups followed; they included military personnel, Peace Corps volunteers, people served by the Indian Health Service, federal employees and their dependents, disabled women enrolled in Medicaid, and others.

The Hyde Amendment (1976) reopened the door to allowing religious beliefs to shape legislative and judicial decisions and the reproductive lives of millions of women, no matter their beliefs. It also reinforced differences between women with resources and those without. Combined with the requirements of Aid to Families with Dependent Children program (the successor of ADC), the Hyde Amendment exercised outsized influence over the reproductive lives of people with low incomes, preventing them from obtaining abortions even as ADC punished them for bearing children. Before Hyde, Medicare paid for about 295,000 abortions for poor women each year; after the amendment was enacted, that number plummeted to 2,000.75

In 1980, the Supreme Court decision in Harris v. McRae upheld the constitutionality of the Hyde Amendment, with the court’s majority ruling against the use of public funds for abortions arguing that the federal government did not create a woman’s poverty and therefore was not responsible for alleviating it. The court noted that “It simply does not follow that a woman’s freedom of choice carries with it constitutional entitlements to the financial resources to avail herself of the full range of protected choices.” In effect, Harris denied a woman’s right to abortion by rendering abortion a class privilege or a consumer’s choice.76

Reproductive Politics, 1980–2000

Despite the Hyde Amendment and McRae, millions of middle-class women achieved the right to control their reproductive capacity; they now had the right to use privately purchased contraception, a right to stay pregnant or not, and the right make their own decisions about becoming mothers or not. The core, neoliberal message of Harris v. McRae—that reproductive autonomy depended on individual purchasing power—validated the choice making of middle-class women while justifying choicelessness for those without sufficient purchasing power. “Choice” quickly became a reproductive-rights slogan for those who “earned” the right to enter the marketplace of reproductive options.77

Focus on the individual choice maker deflected attention from the choicelessness of those who did not “earn” enough money to exercise that right. At the same time, more and more women became choiceless in the 1980s and 1990s amid drastic reductions in federal funds for Title X (a federal program that funded contraception), welfare programs, child care, and Medicaid; all of these programs were crucial supports for the reproductive health and lived experiences of low-income women. In an era of “choice,” women have been denied crucial resources for preventing pregnancy, terminating pregnancy, and caring for children.78 All the while, many millions of middle-class women continued to enjoy “choice.” But clearly, “reproductive rights” had not in fact achieved the status of rights, but had become, instead, a consumer choice.

Several Supreme Court decisions in this period further constrained the meaning of “choice” and limited access to abortion. Among these were Webster v. Reproductive Health Services (1989), which allowed Missouri to base public policy on the theological proposition that “life begins at conception,” and ban the use of public facilities to perform the procedure; and Rust v. Sullivan (1991), which upheld federal regulations that barred physicians at publicly funded family-planning clinics from providing their patients with abortion counseling or referrals. In 1992, Planned Parenthood v. Casey replaced the earlier “strict scrutiny” standard for evaluating the constitutionality of abortion restrictions with the “undue burden” test, ensuring that judges would find an obstacle to abortion access unconstitutional only under very limited circumstances. Casey also affirmed that even when federal money is not at issue, the government can still enforce its preference against abortion. All three of these rulings deepened the impact of the Hyde Amendment on women without the resources to pay for private services.79

Even with these and other new constraints on legal abortion, the endurance of Roe fueled a dramatic and brutal increase in anti-abortion violence, much of it largely ignored by local police, politicians, and a succession of presidents. In the 1990s, many anti-abortion groups flourished, including Operation Rescue, a violence-prone organization that targeted clinics. Operation Rescue and other terrorist organizations attacked hundreds of clinics and murdered several physicians and clinic personnel. In this climate, many physicians stopped providing abortion services; others wore bullet-proof vests when they left their heavily protected offices.80

Anti-abortion groups, legislatures, and judges began to put special emphasis on the fetus—now visible through new imaging technologies—thereby effacing the needs and rights of pregnant women and justifying policies against abortion. Through the concept of “fetal personhood,” activists and politicians argued for granting the fetus more “rights” than a child possesses and portrayed the pregnant woman—personhood drained away—as the adversary of the fetus. These developments had significant implications for employment policies; they justified excluding women from jobs defined as harmful to fetuses, rather than making workplaces safe for all employees.81 Fetal personhood also drove prosecutions of pregnant women and new mothers—disproportionately poor, resourceless, women of color—for drug use while denying them access to drug-treatment programs and leaving wealthier white substance abusers alone.82 Women who experienced stillbirths and who suffered from mental illness have also been targeted.

The severely constrained version of reproductive “choice” that increasingly characterized the post-Roe decades prompted African American women to form organizations such as the National Council of Negro Women and the National Black Women’s Health Project to speak out about the serious limits of “choice” that did not recognize reproduction as a social phenomenon that depended on resources, not just preferences.

In 1994, a group of African American women articulated a new way of claiming reproductive dignity and safety, coining the concept “reproductive justice,” a perspective that focuses on the vulnerabilities of people without institutional power and makes the argument that reproduction is more than a biological event; it is a social and political event. The group drew attention to sterilization laws, the fostering system that removed the children of poor women from their mother’s care, the impact of the Hyde Amendment, public degradation of poor mothers, and welfare laws (at a moment when President Clinton promised to end “welfare as we know it,” the sixty-year-old system of social provision that dated back to the New Deal), to illustrate how each of these developments, and all of them together, have shaped and governed reproduction in ways that harmed whole communities and rendered the meaning and rights of citizenship unclear.

The women who crafted the reproductive-justice perspective drew on international and U.S. anti-racist and feminist-led human-rights movements and on the history of reproductive abuse in America to buttress their claim that women of color, indeed, all women, had the right to be sexual and fertile, to be parents, and to manage their fertility, all with dignity and safety.

They explained that achieving reproductive dignity and safety depended not just on access to contraception and abortion services, but also on access to good medical care, decent housing, a job that paid a living wage, and a living community free of police harassment and environmental toxicity. In addition, they argued, persons must have access to contraception and abortion services to achieve reproductive health, dignity, and safety. Reproductive-justice activists also challenged the incarceration system, the immigration system, and the health-care system, showing how each of these has, historically and in the contemporary United States, institutionalized degradations associated with fertility, reproduction, and parenthood. Their goal was to establish reproductive health care and parenthood as human rights, not as commodities for purchase.83

At the end of the 20th century, politicians ended the Aid to Dependent Children program, replacing it with Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), a time-limited, work-focused assistance policy that would increase the difficulties poor women faced having children and mothering them.84 President Bill Clinton’s administration ended welfare, while political support for reproductive health, including abortion rights, remained tenuous; an anti-abortion president would move into the White House in 2001, and Republicans who opposed abortion rights controlled an expanding number of state legislatures, where they also attacked many forms of public provision. Even so, major reproductive-rights organizations such as Planned Parenthood, the National Abortion Rights Action League (NARAL), and others continued to evoke “choice” as the sine qua non of modern womanhood and as the goal of their political work. Establishing itself in this complex terrain as a major actor, an Atlanta-based organizational expression of the reproductive-justice framework, SisterSong, and its allies began a long battle at the end of the century to develop broad support for a dynamic, human-rights–driven approach to the sexual, reproductive, and parental experiences that serve the needs of all individuals.

Discussion of the Literature

From its inception, the subfield of the U.S. history of reproductive politics was created by an interdisciplinary group of scholars. The earliest influential studies of the 20th century are historian Linda Gordon’s Woman’s Body, Woman’s Right (1976), political scientist Rosalind Pollack Petchesky’s Abortion and Woman’s Choice (1984), and development scholar Betsy Hartmann’s Reproductive Rights and Wrongs (1987). These foundational texts set forth many of the questions, themes, and frameworks that have since driven the field, including the role of feminism in creating various iterations of reproductive rights; the meaning and function of the individualist concept of “choice”; the links among sex, fertility, and reproduction and the historical and political contexts in which they occur and gain meaning; an expansive understanding of reproductive politics that encompasses issues such as education, employment, housing, and health care; and a focus on the ways in which the state has assigned value to the reproductive capacity of whites while devaluing the fertility and maternity of women of color, their families, and their communities, and the consequences of these assignments.

Legal scholar Dorothy Roberts’s Killing the Black Body (1997) highlighted the ways in which the state and other centers of power have used the law, social policy, ideology, and other tools to operationalize their preference for the reproductive capacity of whites.

Other historians demonstrated the salience of the state and colonialism to the history of reproductive politics. Leslie Reagan considered the role of the state and physicians as state actors in her study of abortion in the 19th and 20th centuries. Laura Briggs demonstrated the centrality of reproductive politics to colonialism, particularly the U.S. colonial project in Puerto Rico. Similarly, Elena Gutiérrez’s Fertile Matters illustrated how authorities used stereotypes of Mexican-origin women as “hyperfertile baby machines” to justify coercive sterilization campaigns, welfare cuts, and immigration controls in postwar Los Angeles. In Somebody’s Children (2012), Laura Briggs’s study of transnational adoption programs that have transferred children from impoverished countries engaged in civil wars during the 1980s and 1990s to the United States, Briggs denaturalized the “nation” and its boundaries and highlighted the indispensability of reproductive practices such as adoption in reinforcing neoliberal economic regimes.

In recent years, a number of scholars have placed women-of-color activism at the center of their studies. These include Jennifer Nelson’s Women of Color and the Reproductive Rights Movement (2003); Jael Silliman, Marlene Gerber Fried, Loretta Ross, and Elena R. Gutiérrez’s Undivided Rights: Women of Color Organize for Reproductive Justice (2004); and Loretta Ross and Rickie Solinger’s Reproductive Justice: An Introduction (2017). Important scholarship has also explored the history of eugenics, including Alex Stern’s Eugenic Nation and Telling Genes and Johanna Schoen’s Choice and Coercion. Other scholars who have influenced the field are historians Sara Dubow (2010), Michele Mitchell (2004), Andrea Tone (2001), Cathy Hajo (2010), and Janet Golden (2006), and sociologist Carole Joffe (1995).

Primary Sources

Researchers of the history of reproductive politics can find relevant primary sources in a variety of locations and forms. Scholars have found rich material pertaining to sterilization, birth control, abortion, adoption, childbirth, infant mortality, welfare legislation, public education, and child care in newspapers, memoirs, diaries, letters, government documents, court cases, and oral histories, among other primary sources. Sources reflecting the perspectives and actions of powerful elites are plentiful, while those revealing the experiences and viewpoints of women, men, and children who have been targeted for reproductive control often require more work to uncover. To better understand these groups’ views and experiences, scholars are called to analyze primary sources with a critical eye.

Government archives at the federal, state, and local levels contain important sources such as the Records of the Children’s Bureau, National Archives, court records pertaining to Roe v. Wade and other key decisions, congressional hearings on birth control in the 1930s, and eugenics-informed sterilization programs in California, Virginia, and North Carolina. Organizational collections are other rich sources and include the Boston Women’s Health Book Collective Records, American Birth Control League Papers, American Eugenics Society Papers, and Planned Parenthood Federation of America. Personal papers of leaders such as birth control activist Margaret Sanger and eugenicist Charles Davenport contain revealing correspondence and publications. Curated collections on the history of reproduction can be found in the Sophia Smith Collection at Smith College, the Schlesinger Library at Radcliffe College, and the Rubenstein Library, Duke University. Digitized databases and microfilm collections containing historical newspapers, medical journals, and other periodicals are often available at public and university libraries. Oral-history interviews conducted with persons of varied racial/ethnic and class backgrounds that address reproductive issues are particularly rich sources. Finally, collections pertaining to political organizations such as the Young Lords and Black Panthers who resisted population-control campaigns and created alternative reproductive-health programs to meet the needs of their communities are also rich sources in this regard. While one must travel to many of these archives, an increasing number of primary-source collections are being digitized and made available online (see below for examples).

Federal Archives

Library of Congress, Washington, DC. Contains Congressional Hearings, 1931–1934, and Margaret Sanger Papers.

National Archives, Washington, DC. Contains Children’s Bureau Records and Records of the Supreme Court of the United States.

State and Local Archives

Case Files, Office of the Attorney General of Texas, Texas State Archives, Austin, TX.

Case Records and Files, New Haven County Superior Court, New Haven, CT.

New Haven County Superior Court at Waterbury, Waterbury, CT.

California State Archives, Sacramento, CA.

Organizational Records

American Birth Control League Papers, Houghton Library, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA.

American Eugenics Society Papers and Eugenics Record Office Papers, American Philosophical Society Library, Philadelphia, PA.

National Abortion Rights Action League Papers, Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe College, Cambridge, MA.

Planned Parenthood Federation of America Papers, Sophia Smith Collection, Smith College, Northampton, MA.

Society for Humane Abortion Papers, Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe College, Cambridge, MA.

Personal Paper Collections

Clarence Gamble, M.D., Papers and Alan Guttmacher, M.D., Papers, Francis A. Countway Library of Medicine, Boston, MA.

Margaret Sanger Papers, Sophia Smith Collection, Smith College, Northampton, MA.

Further Reading

Briggs, Laura. Reproducing Empire: Race, Sex, Science and U.S. Imperialism in Puerto Rico. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2002.Find this resource:

    Briggs, Laura. Somebody’s Children: The Politics of Transracial and Transnational Adoption. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2012.Find this resource:

      Fraser, Gertrude Jacinta. African American Midwifery in the South: Dialogues of Birth, Race, and Memory. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2009.Find this resource:

        Gordon, Linda. Woman’s Body, Woman’s Right: Birth Control in America. New York: Grossman/Viking, 1976.Find this resource:

          Gutiérrez, Elena R. Fertile Matters: The Politics of Mexican Origin Women’s Reproduction. Austin: University of Texas Press, 2008.Find this resource:

            Jacobs, Margaret. White Mother to a Dark Race: Settler Colonialism, Maternalism, and the Removal of Indigenous Children in the American West and Australia, 1880–1940. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2011.Find this resource:

              Mamo, Laura. Queering Reproduction: Achieving Pregnancy in the Age of Technoscience. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2007.Find this resource:

                Nelson, Jennifer. Women of Color and the Reproductive Rights Movement. New York: New York University Press, 2003.Find this resource:

                  Reagan, Leslie. When Abortion Was a Crime: Women, Medicine, and Law in the United States, 1867–1973. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1997.Find this resource:

                    Reagan, Leslie. Dangerous Pregnancies: Mothers, Disabilities, and Abortion in Modern America. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2010.Find this resource:

                      Roberts, Dorothy. Killing the Black Body: Race, Reproduction, and the Meaning of Liberty. New York: Pantheon, 1997.Find this resource:

                        Ross, Loretta, and Rickie Solinger. Reproductive Justice: An Introduction. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2017.Find this resource:

                          Schoen, Johanna. Choice and Coercion: Birth Control, Sterilization, and Abortion in Public Health and Welfare. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2005.Find this resource:

                            Schoen, Johanna. Abortion After Roe v. Wade. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2015.Find this resource:

                              Silliman, Jael, Marlene Gerber Fried, Loretta Ross, and Elena R. Gutiérrez. Undivided Rights: Women of Color Organize for Reproductive Justice. Cambridge, MA: South End Press, 2004.Find this resource:

                                Solinger. Rickie. Wake Up Little Susie: Single Pregnancy and Race before Roe v. Wade. New York: Routledge, 1992, 2000.Find this resource:

                                  Solinger. Rickie. Beggars and Choosers: How the Politics of Choice Shapes Adoption, Abortion, and Welfare in the U.S. New York: Hill and Wang, 2001.Find this resource:

                                    Solinger, Rickie. Pregnancy and Power: A Short History of Reproductive Politics in America. New York: New York University, 2005, 2018.Find this resource:

                                      Stern, Alexandra Minna. Eugenic Nation: Faults and Frontiers of Better Breeding in Modern America. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2016.Find this resource:

                                        Wheeler, Leigh Ann. How Sex Became a Civil Liberty. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014.Find this resource:


                                          (1.) Reproductive States: Global Perspectives on the Invention and Implementation of Population Policy, ed. Rickie Solinger and Mie Nakachi (New York: Oxford University Press, 2016).

                                          (2.) Leslie Reagan, When Abortion Was a Crime.

                                          (3.) Sarah Deutsch, Women and the City: Gender, Space, and Power in Boston, 1870–1940 (New York: Oxford University Press, 2000); Joanne Meyerowitz, Women Adrift: Independent Wage Earners in Chicago, 1880–1930 (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1991).

                                          (4.) James H. Adams, Urban Reform and Sexual Vice in Progressive-Era Philadelphia: The Faithful and the Fallen (Lanham, MD: Lexington Books, 2015); Regina Kunzel, Fallen Women, Problem Girls; Alexander (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1993); The “Girl Problem,” Mary Odem, Delinquent Daughters: Protecting and Policing Adolescent Female Sexuality (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1995).

                                          (5.) Reagan, When Abortion Was a Crime: Women, Medicine, and Law in the United States, 1867–1973 (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1998).

                                          (6.) Andrea Tone, Devices and Desires: A History of Contraceptives in America (New York: Hill and Wang, 2002).

                                          (7.) Ellen Chesler, Woman of Valor: Margaret Sanger and the Birth Control Movement in America (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1992), 325; Carole McCann, Birth Control Politics in the United States, 1916–1945 (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1999).

                                          (8.) Linda Gordon, Moral Property of Women, ch. 8; Constance Chen, “The Sex Side of Life: Mary Ware Dennett’s Pioneering Battle for Birth Control and Sex Education” (New York: The New Press, 1997); McCann, Birth Control Politics; Gwendolyn Mink, Wages of Motherhood: Inequality in the Welfare State, 1917–1942 (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1995).

                                          (9.) Chesler, Woman of Valor, ch. 15.

                                          (10.) Eric Foner, Reconstruction: America’s Unfinished evolution, 1863–1877 (New York: HarperCollins, 1988); William H. Chafe, Remembering Jim Crow: African Americans Tell about Life in the Segregated South (New York: The New Press, 2014).

                                          (11.) David Wallace Adams, Education for Extinction: American Indians and the Boarding School Experience, 1875–1928 (Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 1995); “Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide,” adopted by Resolution 260 (III) A of the U.N. General Assembly on December 9, 1948, Art. II(e).

                                          (12.) Muller v. Oregon, 208 U.S. 412 (1908); Alice Kessler-Harris, In Pursuit of Equity: Women, Men and the Quest for Economic Citizenship in Twentieth Century America (New York: Oxford University Press, 2001).

                                          (13.) Wendy Kline, Building a Better Race: Gender, Sexuality, and Eugenics from the Turn of the Century to the Baby Boom (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2001); Alexandra Stern, Eugenic Nation: Faults and Frontiers of Better Breeding in Modern America (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2016).

                                          (14.) Adam Cohen, Imbeciles: The Supreme Court, American Eugenics, and the Sterilization of Carrie Buck (New York: Penguin, 2016); Thomas C. Leonard, Illiberal Reformers: Race, Eugenics, and American Economics in the Progressive Era (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2016).

                                          (15.) Ian Haney Lopez, White By Law: The Legal Construction of Race (New York: New York University Press, 1998).

                                          (16.) Camille Guerin-Gonzalez, Mexican Workers and American Dreams: Immigration, Repatriation, and California Farm Labor, 1900–1939 (New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 1994); Mae M. Ngai, “The Architecture of Race in American Immigration Law: A Reexamination of the Immigration Act of 1924,” Journal of American History 86 (1999):167–192; Mae M. Ngai, Impossible Subjects: Illegal Aliens and the Making of Modern America (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2014).

                                          (17.) Tone, Devices and Desires, ch. 3.

                                          (18.) Cathy Moran Hajo, Birth Control on Main Street: Organizing Clinics in the U.S., 1916–1939 (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2010).

                                          (19.) Chesler, Woman of Valor, 294–295; Jesse M. Rodrique, “The Black Community and the Birth Control Movement,” in We Specialize in the Wholly Impossible: A Reader in Black Women’s History, eds. Darlene Clark Hine, Wilma King, and Linda Reed (New York: Carlson, 1995).

                                          (20.) Ira Katznelson, When Affirmative Action Was White: An Untold History of Racial Inequality in Twentieth-Century America (New York: W. W. Norton, 2006).

                                          (21.) Johanna Schoen, Choice and Coercion: Birth Control, Sterilization, and Abortion in Public Health and Welfare in the Twentieth Century, (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2005).

                                          (22.) Tone, Devices and Desires, 85.

                                          (23.) Reagan, When Abortion Was a Crime; Rodrique, “The Black Community and the Birth Control Movement.”

                                          (24.) Rickie Solinger, The Abortionist: A Woman Against the Law (New York: Free Press, 1994).

                                          (25.) Reagan, When Abortion Was a Crime, ch. 5.

                                          (26.) Griswold v. Connecticut, 381 U.S. 479 (1965); Roe v. Wade, 410 U.S. 113 (1973).

                                          (27.) Laura Weinrib, “The Sex Side of Civil Liberties: United States v. Denne and the Changing Face of Free Speech,” University of Chicago Public Law and Legal Theory Working Paper 385 (2012); Youngs Rubber Corp. v. C.I. Lee and Co.45 F.2d 103 (2d Cir. 1930); U.S. v. One Package of Japanese Pessaries 86 F.2d 737 (2d Cir. 1936).

                                          (28.) Chesler, Woman of Valor, ch. 15; Leslie Woodcock Tentler, Catholics and Contraception: An American History (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2004).

                                          (29.) Mimi Abramovitz, Regulating the Lives of Women: Social Welfare Policy from Colonial Times to the Present (Boston: South End Press, 1996), ch. 7.

                                          (30.) Elena R. Gutiérrez, Fertile Matters: The Politics of Mexican-Origin Women’s Reproduction (Austin: University of Texas Press, 2008), chs. 1 and 2; Fran Leeper Buss, La Partera: Story of a Midwife (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1980; Francisco E. Balderrama and Raymond Rodríguez (Albuquerque: University of New Mexico, 2006).

                                          (31.) James Q. Whitman, Hitler’s American Model: The United States and the Making of Nazi Race Law (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2017).

                                          (32.) Laura Briggs, Reproducing Empire, 83.

                                          (33.) Chesler, Woman of Valor, ch. 14.

                                          (34.) Susan E. Riley, “Caring for Rosie’s Children: Federal Child Care Policies in the World War II Era,” Polity 26 (Summer 1994): 655–675.

                                          (35.) Susan E. Riley, “Caring for Rosie’s Children,” ch. 18; E. Franklin Frazier, “Birth Control for More Negro Babies,” Negro Digest, July 1945, 41–44; Dorothy Boulding Ferebee, “Planned Parenthood as a Public Health Measure for the Negro Race,” Human Fertility 7 (January 1942): 7–10; Donald Critchlow, Intended Consequences: Birth Control, Abortion, and the Federal Government in Modern America (New York: Oxford University Press, 1999), ch. 1.

                                          (36.) Gordon, The Moral Property of Women, ch. 11.

                                          (37.) Solinger, The Abortionist, chs. 7 and 8.

                                          (38.) Alice Kessler-Harris, Out to Work: A History of Wage-Earning Women in the United States (New York: Oxford University Press, 2003), ch. 11.

                                          (39.) Lizbeth Cohen, A Consumer’s Republic: The Politics of Mass Consumption in Postwar America (New York: Knopf, 2003).

                                          (40.) Marynia Farnham and Ferdinand Lundberg, Modern Woman: The Lost Sex (New York: Harper, 1947).

                                          (41.) Michael J. Klarman, From Jim Crow to Civil Rights: The Supreme Court and the Struggle for Racial Equality (New York: Oxford University Press, 2004), ch. 6; Gutiérrez, Fertile Matters; Gwendolyn Mink and Rickie Solinger, WELFARE: A Documentary History of U.S. Policy and Politics (New York: New York University Press, 2003), parts 2 and 3.

                                          (42.) Rickie Solinger, Wake Up Little Susie: Single Pregnancy and Race before Roe v. Wade (New York: Routledge, 2000).

                                          (43.) Rickie Solinger, Wake Up Little Susie: Single Pregnancy and Race before Roe v. Wade (New York: Routledge, 2000), chs. 1 and 2.

                                          (44.) Winifred Bell, ADC (New York: Columbia University Press, 1965).

                                          (45.) Paul Ehrlich, The Population Bomb: Population Control or the Race to Oblivion (New York: Ballentine, 1970); John B. Calhoun, “Population Density and Social Pathology,” in The Urban Condition: People and Policy in the Metropolis, ed. Leonard J. Duhl (New York: Basic Books, 1963), 33–43; Rickie Solinger, “Bleeding Across Time: First Principles of US Population Policy,” in Reproductive States: Global Perspectives on the Invention and Implementation of Population Policy, eds. Rickie Solinger and Mie Nakachi (New York: Oxford University Press, 2016), 63–97.

                                          (46.) “Address in San Francisco,” June 25, 1965, Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: Lyndon B. Johnson, 1965, book 2 (Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1966), 705.

                                          (47.) Premilla Nadasen, Welfare Warriors: The Welfare Rights Movement in the United States (New York: Routledge, 2005); Felicia Kornbluh, The Battle for Welfare Rights: Politics and Poverty in Modern America (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2007).

                                          (48.) Laura Kaplan, The Story of Jane: The Legendary Underground Feminist Abortion Service (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1995); Gordon, The Moral Property of Women, part 4; Reva Siegel and Linda Greenhouse, Before Roe v. Wade: Voices that Shaped the Abortion Debate (New York: Kaplan, 2012).

                                          (49.) Donald T. Critchlow, Intended Consequences: Birth Control, Abortion, and the Federal Government in Modern America (New York: Oxford University Press, 1999); Elizabeth Siegel Watkins, On the Pill: A Social History of Oral Contraceptives, 1950–1970 (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1998).

                                          (50.) Andrew Hacker, “The Pill and Morality,” New York Times Magazine, November 21, 1965.

                                          (51.) Claudia Goldin and Lawrence F. Katz, “The Power of the Pill: Oral Contraceptives and Women’s Career and Marriage Decisions,” Journal of Political Economics 110 (2002): 766.

                                          (52.) George Gallup, “The Gallup Poll—81% for Dissemination of Birth Control Data,” Washington Post, January 6, 1965.

                                          (53.) Griswold v. Connecticut.

                                          (54.) Eisenstadt v. Baird, 405 U.S. 438 (1972).

                                          (55.) Chikako Takeshita, The Global Biopolitics of the IUD: How Science Constructs Contraceptive Users and Women’s Bodies (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2012).

                                          (56.) Tone, Devices and Desires, ch. 11.

                                          (57.) Wendy Kline, Bodies of Knowledge: Sexuality, Reproduction, and Women’s Health in the Second Wave (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2010); Boston Women’s Health Collective, Our Bodies Ourselves, various editions since 1971.

                                          (58.) Daniel Patrick Moynihan, The Negro Family: The Case For National Action (Office of Policy Planning and Research United States Department of Labor, March 1965).

                                          (59.) Jennifer Nelson, Women of Color and the Reproductive Rights Movement (New York: New York University Press, 2003), ch. 5.

                                          (60.) Gutiérrez, Fertile Matters.

                                          (61.) Jane Lawrence, “The Indian Health Service and the Sterilization of Native American Women,” American Indian Quarterly 24 (Summer 2000); 400–419; Bernard Feld, Sidney M. Wolfe, and Robert E. McGarrah Jr., “A Health Research Group Study on Surgical Sterilization: Present Abuses and Proposed Regulations” (Washington, DC: Health Research Group, October 29, 1978): 1474–1477; Iris Lopez, Puerto Rican Women’s Struggle for Reproductive Freedom (New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 2008).

                                          (62.) Dorothy Roberts, Killing the Black Body: Race, Reproduction, and the Meaning of Liberty (New York: Pantheon, 1997), chs. 2 and 3.

                                          (63.) Nelson, Women of Color and the Reproductive Rights Movement, chs. 3 and 4; Mary Crow Dog and Richard Erdoes, Lakota Woman (New York: Grove Weidenfeld, 1990); Angela Y. Davis, “Outcast Mothers and Surrogates: Racism and Reproductive Health in the Nineties,” in American Feminist Thought at Century’s End: A Reader, ed. Linda S. Kauffman (Cambridge, MA: Blackwell, 1993).

                                          (64.) Rosalind Pollack Petchesky, Abortion and Women’s Choice: The State, Sexuality, and Reproductive Freedom, rev. ed. (Boston: Northeastern University Press, 1990), ch. 3.

                                          (65.) Roe v. Wade, 410 U.S. 113 (1973).

                                          (66.) Riva Siegel, “Reasoning from the Body: A Historical Perspective on Abortion Regulation and Questions of Equal Protection,” Stanford Law Review 44 (January 1992): 261–381.

                                          (67.) Zakiya Luna and Kristin Luker, “Reproductive Justice,” Annual Review of Law and Social Science 9 (2013): 327–352.

                                          (68.) Johanna Schoen, Abortion After Roe (Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press, 2015); Mary Ziegler, After Roe: The Lost History of the Abortion Debate (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2015).

                                          (69.) Kristin Luker, Dubious Conceptions: The Politics of Teenage Pregnancy (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1997).

                                          (70.) Loving v. Virginia, 388 U.S. 1 (1967).

                                          (71.) The Pregnancy Discrimination Act (1978) is an amendment to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. It defines as unlawful sex discrimination under Title VII any discrimination on the basis of pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions. Women affected by pregnancy or related conditions must be treated in the same manner as other applicants or employees who are similar in their ability or inability to work.

                                          (72.) Ellen Herman, Kinship by Design: A History of Adoption in the Modern United States (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2008).

                                          (73.) James Risen and Judy L. Thomas, Wrath of Angels: The American Abortion War (New York: Basic Books, 1999); Petchesky, Abortion and Women’s Choice; Carol Mason, Killing for Life: The Apocalyptic Narrative of Pro-life Politics (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2002).

                                          (74.) David S. Cohen and Krysten Connon, Living in the Crosshairs: The Untold Stories of Anti-abortion Terrorism (New York: Oxford University Press, 2015).

                                          (75.) James Trussell, Jann Menken, Barbara L. Lindheim, and Barbara Vaughan, “The Impact of Restricting Medical Financing for Abortion,” Family Planning Perspectives 12 (May–June, 1980): 120; Abortions and the Poor: Private Morality, Public Responsibility (New York: Alan Guttmacher Institute, 1979); Rachel Benson Gold, “After the Hyde Amendment: Public Funding for Abortion in FY 1978,” Family Planning Perspctives 12 (May–June, 1980): 134; Loretta Ross and Rickie Solinger, Reproductive Justice: An Introduction (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2017), ch. 3.

                                          (76.) Harris v. McRae, 448 U.S. 297 (1980).

                                          (77.) Rickie Solinger, Beggars and Choosers: How the Politics of Choice Shapes Adoption, Abortion, and Welfare in the U.S. (New York: Hill and Wang, 2001).

                                          (78.) Kathryn Edin and Laura Lein, Making Ends Meet: How Single Mothers Survive Welfare and Low-Wage Work (New York: Russell Sage Foundation, 1997).

                                          (79.) Webster v. Reproductive Health Services, 492 U.S. 490 (1989); Rust v. Sullivan, 500 U.S. 173 (1991); Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pa. v. Casey, 505 U.S. 833 (1992).

                                          (80.) Dallas A. Blanchard, The Anti-abortion Movement and the Rise of the Religious Right: From Polite to Fiery Protest (New York: Twayne, 1994); Patricia Baird-Windle and Eleanor J. Bader, Targets of Hatred: Anti-abortion Terrorism (New York: Palgrave, 2001); Warren Hern, MD, “Life on the Front Lines,” Women’s Health Issues 4 (Fall 1993): 48–54.

                                          (81.) Automobile Workers v. Johnson Controls, Inc., 499 US.187 (1991).

                                          (82.) Rachel Roth, Making Women Pay: The Hidden Costs of Fetal Rights (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2000); Sara Dubow, Ourselves Unborn: Fetal Meanings in Modern America (New York: Oxford University Press, 2011).

                                          (83.) Loretta Ross, “What Is Reproductive Justice?”; Ross and Solinger, Reproductive Justice, ch. 2.

                                          (84.) Gwendolyn Mink, Welfare’s End (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1998).