I50 INTER D 310/510 The Politics of Reproduction
Dr. Rebecca Wanzo

Course Description
This course takes an interdisciplinary approach to the historical, medical, legal, and socio-cultural issues surrounding reproduction. In the wake of the Dobbs ruling, the course seeks to provide a strong grounding in what led to the ruling and the implications as the nation moves forward. The course will explore topics such as health, law, disability, economics, film, reproductive justice, and religion. This is a one-and-a-half-credit course that combines in-person sessions and public event webinars and will include faculty from all the schools at Washington University and include outside speakers.

List of Speakers

Session 1: July 27, 2022 at 4-5:20 p.m. Central (Asynchronous pre-watch)
What Does Reproductive Health Look Like Post-Dobbs? 

Tessa Madden, Dineo Khabele, Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis


Session 2: Monday, August 29, 2022 from 4-5:20 p.m. Central
Religion on All Sides of The Abortion Debates

Marie Griffith, Author of Moral Combat: How Sex Divided American Christians and Fractured American Politics   
The Alito decision challenges the history used as grounds for Roe. Scholars who have traced the history of abortion have long argued that it was not something regulated much by the state until long past the nation’s founding. Perhaps even more surprisingly, until quite recently most religious groups in the U.S. supported abortion in certain or all circumstances. What did religious attitudes toward abortion look like before Roe? How have they changed since then? What are the key moments of conflict and change in the historical relationship between religion and reproductive rights?   


Session 3: Monday, September 12, 2022 from 4-5:20 p.m. Central
The Legal Landscape—Past, Present, and Future

Susan Appleton, Law School   

This session will trace the evolution of the constitutional rights to privacy and liberty, from Griswold v. Connecticut (1965) to Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Center (2022). Key reference points will include the Supreme Court’s treatment over the years of three concepts: family, sex, and gender. Students should do the assigned reading and be prepared to participate in the conversation.


Session 4: Monday, September 19, 2022 from 4-5:20 p.m. Central [Public webinar]
Sexual Political Economies of Slavery and Abortion Access

Adrienne Davis, Law School

Legal scholars have noted that the closest precedents to many of the new state laws that will govern abortion access and information are the set of laws that regulated speech and travel under slavery in the antebellum United States. This session will consider overlaps and distinctions, focusing on what this precedent means in today’s context and what it means for our legal institutions and lives today.

Zoom Recording


Session 5: Thursday, September 22, 2022 from 4-6:45 p.m. Central in Brown 100 on the Danforth Campus (Free and open to the public)
The Rights of Intensity; Or, What Does 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days (Mungiu, 2007) ‘Say’ about Abortion?       

Colin Burnett, Film and Media Studies

Films like 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days (2007) tend to be interpreted as statements about abortion. But must a film that touches the subject of reproductive rights be reduced to a verbal argument, or interpreted as a position taken? In this session, we will explore an alternative approach to analyzing films which attempts to restore the myriad effects they have on us as viewers. If 4 Months has an obvious ideological valence, exciting in us several political readings at once, its force ultimately rests in its ability to stimulate a full range of experiential–bodily, emotional, and cognitive–intensities. We will see that much depends on our ability to appreciate how works like 4 Months avoid message and, in the words of Susan Sontag, “establish the rights of intensity” in our stories, particularly on subjects like abortion, whose realities many seek to avoid or deny.


Session 6: Monday, October 3 Panel from 4-5:20 p.m. Central in Louderman Hall, Room 458 (Free and open to the public)
International Perspectives   
What Do Abortion Rights Look Like in Other Countries?
What Is It Like to Live in a State without Abortion Access?  

Anca Parvulescu, Rachel Brown, Shanti Parikh, Mytheli Sreenivas 


Session 7: Tuesday, October 4 from 4-5:20 p.m. Central in the Women’s Building Formal Lounge (Free and open to the public)
Reproductive Politics and the Making of Modern India

Mytheli Sreenivas, The Ohio State University

This talk centers India in a discussion of reproductive justice. Taking a long historical view, I ask how concerns about population, drives for “eugenic” improvement, and feminist desires for economic development have, and continue, to propel reproductive politics in India. The talk examines India not merely as a case study, but considers Indian history as a starting point for re-imagining reproductive justice in transnational contexts.


Session 8: October 10
Fall break


Session 9: Monday, October 17, 2022 from 4-5:20 p.m.
Integrating Gender into SRHR Programming and Policies

Jessica Levy, Brown School

Gender norms are the unwritten social rules that define and place value on that which is considered male or masculine and female or feminine. These norms are far from neutral and sustain a hierarchy of power and privilege that has a direct influence on reproductive health (RH) behaviors and outcomes, as well as on RH programming and policies. This class will explore how gender norms “show up” in sexual and reproductive health and rights and will offer suggestions for how to ensure that programs and policies are geared more towards gender equality. 


Session 10: Monday, October 24, 2022 from 4-5:20 p.m. Central [Public webinar]
Who Gets Trapped in Post-Roe America?

Caitlin Myers, Middlebury College

Within hours of the end of Roe, state abortion bans began to take effect and clinics began to close, leaving would-be patients with little time to lose scrambling to figure out where to go next in a shifting and unstable landscape. As stunning as this moment may be, it’s neither unprecedented nor unpredictable. We’ve seen changes in abortion access before, and quantitative social scientists have spent decades using data and statistics to study these “natural experiments”—situations where sudden localized change in access affords us an opportunity to isolate and measure causal effects. I will discuss this literature and draw on it to provide a forecast of how many people seeking abortions are likely to find themselves trapped by distance and poverty, and what happens to them next.

Zoom Recording


Session 11: Monday, October 31, 2022 from 4-5:20 p.m. Central
Legislative Politics and Abortion

Diana O’Brien, Political Science 

This course session outlines the current status of legislation both advancing and retracting reproductive rights in Congress and U.S. state legislatures. We will also place the U.S. in a global perspective, identifying when legislatures are likely to advance reproductive rights. We will discuss the importance and limitations of legislative strategies, and talk more broadly about what political science research teaches us about reproductive rights. 


Session 12: Monday, November 7, 2022 from 4-5:20 p.m. Central
Political Philosophy, Ethics, and Abortion

Lori Watson, Philosophy

This course session will examine the various philosophical frameworks for thinking about the morality of abortion. Our goals will be to understand and critically engage with the various arguments through respectful dialogue.


Session 13: Monday, November 14, 2022 from 4-5:20 p.m. Central [Public webinar]
Disability and Reproductive Justice

Alison Kafer, University of Texas-Austin

Disability justice activists have long been concerned with ableist approaches to pregnancy and abortion. Disabled people also face many barriers to reproductive health care and have a heightened risk of sexual assault and pregnancies they did not choose. How does a disability studies lens reshape some of the conversations about reproductive justice?   

Zoom Link


Session 14: Monday, November 21, 2022 from 4-5:20 p.m. Central (Public webinar)
Reproductive Justice

Zakiya Luna, Sociology, and Layidua SalazarWe Testify abortion storyteller 

The conversation will cover how abortion fits within reproductive justice and how attending to an intersection of issues connects movements for grassroots organizing.  

Advanced registration required

Selected Readings


Session 15 (Final Projects–date and time TBD)
Synthesis Project: Projecting A Multitude of Futures

Heather Corcoran, Penina Acayo, Alvitta Ottley, Niki HerdPhillip Maciak

Students will apply their learning from this course into a final project that will seek to call attention to their particular perspective. The project will take one of a variety of forms, such as a poster, a data visualization, a short video, a piece of writing, etc. Work on this project will begin with a brainstorming session in the first half of the semester and will be developed during class time late in the semester. The project requires no previous experience and may be completed individually or in groups of two. Students will have the option of displaying their final work in a format to be determined.