Abortion and reproductive rights have long inspired intense debate. This week, as the US Supreme Court considers a Mississippi case that could overturn Roe v. Wade, a leaked draft opinion suggests the court is poised to reverse the landmark decision. To put this long, complex history of legal debates and rulings related to reproduction, women’s health, and abortion in context, we turn to our own archives. We hope these stories published over the past seven years will help inform your conversations inside and outside the classroom.

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Abortion

Pope Sixtus V abortion ban

What a 16th-Century Abortion Ban Revealed

In 1588, Pope Sixtus V issued a papal bull officially classifying abortion, regardless of the stage of fetal development, as homicide.
Norma McCorvey (Jane Roe) and Gloria Allred

The History of Outlawing Abortion in America

Abortion was first criminalized in the U.S. in the mid-19th century. A key argument was that too many white women were ending their pregnancies.
A stained glass window depicting Hildegard von Bingen at Église Sainte-Foy, Alsace

Abortion Remedies from a Medieval Catholic Nun(!)

Hildegard von Bingen wrote medical texts describing how to prepare abortifacients.
A campaigner gives a leaflet to a woman at the Abortion Travel agency store on April 10, 2014 in Madrid, Spain.

Evading Abortion Bans with Mutual Aid

One scholar chronicles how communities have banded together to help each other with abortion care even when it’s against the law.
Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts

The Madness of John Roberts

The Supreme Court’s pro-choice decision in June Medical Services v. Russo illustrates the Chief Justice's embattled relationship with precedent.
Barbara Kruger

The History of “Your Body Is A Battleground”

Revisiting the iconic work of Barbara Kruger (“Your Body is a Battleground”) that has just as much resonance today as it did a quarter century ago.
Vintage engraving of The Bench, by William Hogarth. 1758, depicts four judges listening to a case in the Court of Common Pleas.

Does Law Exist to Provide Moral Order?

Is social cohesion possible in plural societies? Philosopher H. L. A. Hart weighed in amid debates on abortion and same-sex relationships.
Pink out for Planned Parenthood

Do Laws Protect Abortion Clinics From Violence?

The research surveys whether state laws protecting abortion clinics have deterred pro-life activists from committing acts of violence.
My Body My Choice graffiti

What Roe v. Wade Means for Internet Privacy

Roe v. Wade left Americans with the idea that privacy is something we can expect as citizens. But does the SCOTUS consider privacy a constitutional right?

Why the Future of the Internet May Depend on the History of Abortion

Our columnist’s take on the future of the Internet and the importance of grassroots networks.

Birth Control

Charles Knowlton portrait

Charles Knowlton, the Father of American Birth Control

Decades after Charles Knowlton died, his book would be credited with the reversal of population growth in England and the popularization of contraception in the United States. 
Babies from the City Maternity Hospital being held by the nurses and doctors who had delivered them.

How Scientists Became Advocates for Birth Control

The fight to gain scientists' support for the birth control movement proved a turning point in contraceptive science—and led to a research revolution.

Birth Control’s Slow Path to the Mainstream

A look at changing public opinion of birth control.
October 15, 2009: Viagra and Norlevo tablets in window display of a a pharmacy in Kas, Turkey. Viagra is made by Pfizer Pharmaceuticals and the trade name for the drug sildenafil citrate. It is the prime treatment for erectile dysfunction. It was developed 1998 by british scientists for treating pulmonary arterial hypertension. Norlevo is a hormonal contraceptive.

Covering Viagra, But Not Birth Control?

The different ways insurance companies treat Viagra for men and birth control for women show the inherent sexism and legal biases involved. 
Margaret Sanger

Margaret Sanger’s Eugenics Defense

Margaret Sanger's belief in eugenics stemmed from her interest in individual choice—an idea that brought birth control into the mainstream of American life.

Debating Birth Control In Pre-Revolutionary France

Attitudes toward birth control in 18th century France.

Reproductive Rights

hospital bed

The Little-Known History of the Forced Sterilization of Native American Women

Jane Lawrence documents the forced sterilization of thousands of Native American women by the Indian Health Service in the 1960s and 1970s.
Carrie and Emma Buck

When Forced Sterilization was Legal in the U.S.

The 1927 case of Buck v. Bell set the stage for forced sterilizations for eugenics, but it turned out to based on complete falsehoods.
Women's March 1970

The Divide in Feminist Ethics on Mothering

In the 1960s, two groups of feminists had very different views about motherhood. Unsurprisingly, race and family played a role.
Candice Bergen Murphy Brown

Murphy Brown, Motherhood, and “Family Values”

Murphy Brown represented a threat to “family values”—a position that inherently placed her on the side of the families of color whose single family structures supposedly threatened the white, middle-class status quo of the 1990s.
A child sitting in front of a window on a bed

Was the One-Child Policy Ever a Good Idea?

China's “one-child” policy has been relaxed, and now married couples may have two children. But according to scholars, the damage is already done.
A woman's hand holding a turkey baster

Notes on Queer Conception and the Redefinition of Family

Feminist scholars refer to the “intensely communal, queer, and playful nature” of DIY LGBTQ conception, but Fertility, Inc. is another story.

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